James at 50 Playlist

James at 50!

So, last weekend, I turned 50 years old! It’s hard for me to believe, but it really happened. And despite it being the coldest night of the winter so far, at least 25 of my friends made the journey (some from as far away as Waterloo!) down to Kensington Market to celebrate with me. I’ve been a recent regular at a cozy little bar called the Kensington Lodge, and they were nice enough to let me curate my very own playlist of favourites. I’d been planning to include music spanning my entire lifetime, but I found that by the time I got to 1985, the playlist was 150 songs and more than 9 hours long. That’s the reason that I started my party at 5:00pm! Even so, we only got up to about 125 songs played before we all headed home. Here for posterity is my epic playlist. And I’d be happy to organize another 9-hour party somewhere just so I could play this again!

p.s. The above photo was actually taken at Kensington Lodge the night of my party. I don’t know whether that sign was there just for me, but it felt appropriate. 🙂

  1. Help! – The Beatles (1965)
  2. In My Life – The Beatles (1965)
  3. Le temps de l’amour – Françoise Hardy (1965)
  4. All Day and All of the Night – The Kinks (1965)
  5. Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones (1965)
  6. I Fought the Law – The Bobby Fuller Four (1966)
  7. Judge Dread – Prince Buster (1966)
  8. Wipeout – The Ventures (1966)
  9. Here Comes My Baby – Cat Stevens (1967)
  10. These Days – Nico (1967)
  11. The Way Young Lovers Do – Van Morrison (1968)
  12. Rain From the Skies – Delroy Wilson (1969)
  13. Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin (1969)
  14. No Fun – The Stooges (1969)
  15. Wild World – Cat Stevens (1970)
  16. What is Life? – George Harrison (1970)
  17. Who Loves the Sun? – The Velvet Underground (1970)
  18. Sweet Leaf – Black Sabbath (1971)
  19. Queen Bitch – David Bowie (1971)
  20. Cross-Eyed Mary – Jethro Tull (1971)
  21. Do Ya – The Move (1971)
  22. Thirteen – Big Star (1972)
  23. Growin’ Up – Bruce Springsteen (1972)
  24. Dream On – Aerosmith (1973)
  25. Search and Destroy – Iggy and the Stooges (1973)
  26. She Cracked – The Modern Lovers (1973)
  27. Higher Ground – Stevie Wonder (1973)
  28. Magic – Pilot (1974)
  29. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen (1975)
  30. More Than a Feeling – Boston (1976)
  31. Livin’ Thing – Electric Light Orchestra (1976)
  32. Carry On Wayward Son – Kansas (1976)
  33. Blinded by the Light – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band (1976)
  34. Blitzkrieg Bop – The Ramones (1976)
  35. I Wish – Stevie Wonder (1976)
  36. Breakdown – Buzzcocks (1977)
  37. Sonic Reducer – Dead Boys (1977)
  38. Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac (1977)
  39. Barracuda – Heart (1977)
  40. The Passenger – Iggy Pop (1977)
  41. Teenage Lobotomy – The Ramones (1977)
  42. God Save the Queen – Sex Pistols (1977)
  43. Hanging on the Telephone – Blondie (1978)
  44. Just What I Needed – The Cars (1978)
  45. Uncontrollable Urge – Devo (1978)
  46. Shot By Both Sides – Magazine (1978)
  47. Hot Child in the City – Nick Gilder (1978)
  48. Another Girl, Another Planet – The Only Ones (1978)
  49. So Lonely – The Police (1978)
  50. I Just Wanna Have Something to Do – The Ramones (1978)
  51. Nicotine Stain – Siouxsie and the Banshees (1978)
  52. Warning Sign – Talking Heads (1978)
  53. 52 Girls – The B-52s (1979)
  54. Someone’s Lookin’ at You – The Boomtown Rats (1979)
  55. I Want You to Want Me – Cheap Trick (1979)
  56. London Calling – The Clash (1979)
  57. New York City – The Demics (1979)
  58. Tired of Waking Up Tired – The Diodes (1979)
  59. Hey St. Peter – Flash and the Pan (1979)
  60. Damaged Goods – Gang of Four (1979)
  61. Flat Tire – The Government (1979)
  62. I’m Bored – Iggy Pop (1979)
  63. Got the Time – Joe Jackson (1979)
  64. Transmission – Joy Division (1979)
  65. Disorder – Joy Division (1979)
  66. My Sharona – The Knack (1979)
  67. Pop Muzik – M (1979)
  68. Bed and Breakfast Man – Madness (1979)
  69. Cruel to Be Kind – Nick Lowe (1979)
  70. In The Flesh? – Pink Floyd (1979)
  71. Bring on the Night – The Police (1979)
  72. Rock Billy Boogie – Robert Gordon (1979)
  73. I Got You – Split Enz (1979)
  74. Cool for Cats – Squeeze (1979)
  75. The Logical Song – Supertramp (1979)
  76. Heaven – Talking Heads (1979)
  77. Picture My Face – Teenage Head (1979)
  78. Down in the Park – Tubeway Army (1979)
  79. Teenage Kicks – The Undertones (1979)
  80. Making Plans for Nigel – XTC (1979)
  81. Ant Music – Adam and the Ants (1980)
  82. A Forest – The Cure (1980)
  83. Twist and Crawl – The English Beat (1980)
  84. Raised Eyebrows – The Feelies (1980)
  85. My Mistake – The Kingbees (1980)
  86. This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ to Glide – The Kings (1980)
  87. A Song from Under the Floorboards – Magazine (1980)
  88. Paint by Number Heart – Martha and the Muffins (1980)
  89. Ace of Spades РM̦torhead (1980)
  90. Blue Boy – Orange Juice (1980)
  91. The Wait – Pretenders (1980)
  92. High School Confidential – Rough Trade (1980)
  93. Happy House – Siouxsie and the Banshees (1980)
  94. Do Nothing – The Specials (1980)
  95. Pulling Mussels – Squeeze (1980)
  96. Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) – Talking Heads (1980)
  97. Disgusteen – Teenage Head (1980)
  98. Los Angeles – X (1980)
  99. Brand New Life – Young Marble Giants (1980)
  100. Black and White – The dB’s (1981)
  101. Watch Your Step – Elvis Costello and The Attractions (1981)
  102. Sex Beat – Gun Club (1981)
  103. Sorry for Laughing – Josef K (1981)
  104. Academy Fight Song – Mission of Burma (1981)
  105. Ceremony – New Order (1981)
  106. Super Freak – Rick James (1981)
  107. Tainted Love – Soft Cell (1981)
  108. Ghost Town – The Specials (1981)
  109. Throwing My Baby Out with the Bathwater – Tenpole Tudor (1981)
  110. Song Without an Ending – The The (1981)
  111. It’s Going to Happen! – The Undertones (1981)
  112. The Look of Love (Part One) – ABC (1982)
  113. I Could Be Happy – Altered Images (1982)
  114. I Love a Man in a Uniform – Gang of Four (1982)
  115. Love Plus One – Haircut 100 (1982)
  116. Compulsion – Joe Crow (1982)
  117. The Safety Dance – Men Without Hats (1982)
  118. Falling and Laughing – Orange Juice (1982)
  119. Love My Way – The Psychedelic Furs (1982)
  120. Someone Somewhere in Summertime – Simple Minds (1982)
  121. Nova Heart – The Spoons (1982)
  122. A New England – Billy Bragg (1983)
  123. Don’t Walk Past – Blue Peter (1983)
  124. The Walls Came Down – The Call (1983)
  125. Saved By Zero – The Fixx (1983)
  126. Laughing – R.E.M. (1983)
  127. This Is The Day – The The (1983)
  128. Europa and the Pirate Twins – Thomas Dolby (1983)
  129. Blister in the Sun – Violent Femmes (1983)
  130. Sixty Eight Guns – The Alarm (1984)
  131. The Saturday Boy – Billy Bragg (1984)
  132. Cath – The Bluebells (1984)
  133. Gonna Get Close to You – Dalbello (1984)
  134. Tenderness – General Public (1984)
  135. Are You Ready to be Heartbroken? – Lloyd Cole and The Commotions (1984)
  136. Doesn’t Really Matter – Platinum Blonde (1984)
  137. Waxie’s Dargle – The Pogues (1984)
  138. Listen to the Radio – Pukka Orchestra (1984)
  139. Harborcoat – R.E.M. (1984)
  140. How Soon is Now? – The Smiths (1984)
  141. This Charming Man – The Smiths (1984)
  142. My Ever Changing Moods – The Style Council (1984)
  143. Take On Me – a-ha (1985)
  144. She Sells Sanctuary – The Cult (1985)
  145. Like to Get to Know You Well – Howard Jones (1985)
  146. Call It Love – Images in Vogue (1985)
  147. Hounds of Love – Kate Bush (1985)
  148. Dirty Old Town – The Pogues (1985)
  149. FFF – Public Image Ltd. (1985)
  150. The Whole of the Moon – The Waterboys (1985)



For a long time, the title of this post was going to be “F**k You 2014” (yes, my language has become much saltier over the past year), but I decided to change it to something that at least tries to look ahead rather than backward.

After losing my father in October 2012, my only blood relative in this hemisphere, my idea of family changed, was forced to change. And now I’ve lost both my partner and best friend, and her mother, the only mother I’ve known over the past two decades.

The sturdy structure I thought we’d been building together for nearly 17 years turned out to be made of spit and tissue paper.

I’ve written a lot about this, some publicly, most privately. But often I’m just reduced to mute:

  • Shock
  • Bafflement
  • Confusion
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Loss
  • Resentment
  • Anger
  • Pain
  • Abandonment
  • Betrayal

So this is definitely not my most articulate blog post.

And just to make things worse…

Since May (when I began keeping a written record), 78 job applications, not one interview.

I look at my dwindling savings (aka the inheritance I wasn’t supposed to be spending) and for the first time, I’m actually worried that I won’t recover from this. I want to be a part of the world and I know that I have a lot to contribute. But for the last year I’ve felt a bit like a surplus human being, unwanted, unneeded. That’s definitely not me. I need to get the twinkle back in my eye.

What does Act III look like for me? I turn 50 years old in February, and if I’m very lucky, I might have 25 years left of this life. What will I do with it? How will I learn from what’s gone before and make this next year and next stage of my life better?

I’d hoped that I’d be able to make this blog post a bit more hopeful. I don’t have the answers yet. Maybe I’ll never have them. The last year has been very hard, and I am hopeful the year ahead will be less hard. But that’s a pretty feeble kind of hope. A new friend has told me that my job for now is just to pass the time. Nature will sort out the rest.

So 2015 is a blanker canvas than I’d ever expected. To mix in some more creative metaphors, it’s a clean white page and an empty stage. And I’m trying to see that as a good thing.

So, curtain up on Act III…

P.S. Strange to look back at a few older “new year” posts:

Best Music of 2014

These days, when December arrives, I begin scrambling to listen to as much music from the current year as I can. Although I hear a few things throughout the year, I’m always scrambling to make my Top Ten a fair list and not just the only ten new records I heard that year. I think I did a good job this year, although five of my top ten are year-end discoveries.

As soon as I heard the first notes of Alvvays’ “Adult Diversion,” I knew I was onto a good thing. Their first album is filler-free, nine perfectly-polished pop gems that will stick in your head immediately. I was also privileged to see them live twice this year (once opening for hardcore act Fucked Up, which was adorable). I’m also immensely proud to be putting a Toronto band top of my list for maybe the first time ever. And I’m excited that there are a few other local bands tilling the same dreampop ground that may make it onto my list next year (WISH, Moon King, The Lonely Parade, Iris).

And I have to mention being knocked out by First Aid Kit’s record Stay Gold quite late in the year. If you’ve read this blog this year, you’ll know that I’d be all over a record with that title, and lyrically and musically, it’s been a balm (yes, maybe a literal first aid kit) for my battered heart even as I find myself crying while listening to it.

Spoon made another solid record this year, but as with all of their more recent stuff, it’s taken me a while to let it settle in. Amazing that I’ve been listening to them for more than 15 years now.

My love affair with metal continues unabated, although I find a bit too many “doom” bands are stretching the songs to absurd lengths. That being said, Pallbearer’s excellent record cannot be denied its rightful place in my list. And nice to see another comeback record (At The Gates) to rival last year’s Carcass release.

The biggest surprise on the list is a band called The Bilinda Butchers, who have made a wildly ambitious concept album based on a 19th-century Japanese love story. With a band name that references one of my all-time ladyrock crushes, I was bound to give them a chance, but the record (which you can actually download and name your own price) is musically eclectic but always compelling. Check it out.

So another year of semi-random music listening, but that’s the way I like it. If I find myself listening to something a lot, it’s going to make my year-end list, and so without further ado, here are my favourite releases of the past year.

Alvvays - Alvvays
First Aid Kit - Stay GoldSpoon - They Want My Soul
The Bilinda Butchers - HEAVENPallbearer - Foundation of BurdenWhite Lung - Deep Fantasy
Parquet Courts - Sunbathing AnimalAt The Gates - At War With RealityAgainst Me! - Transgender Dysphoria BluesLiterature - Chorus

In list form, if you’re not visually inclined:

  1. Alvvays – Alvvays
  2. First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
  3. Spoon – They Want My Soul
  4. The Bilinda Butchers – HEAVEN
  5. Pallbearer – Foundation of Burden
  6. White Lung – Deep Fantasy
  7. Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
  8. At The Gates – At War With Reality
  9. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
  10. Literature – Chorus

Honourable Mentions:

  • The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
  • Nothing – Guilty of Everything
  • Army Navy – The Wilderness Inside
  • The Raveonettes – Pe’ahi
  • Exodus – Blood In Blood Out

Just for fun, here are some of my previous lists:

How about you? What were some of your favourites?

P.S. If you still haven’t caught up on all of 2014’s music (and there’s no way to actually do that), I’d recommend downloading this massive 10-disc annual collection from Fluxblog.


So, I am moving. Not too far, just down 18 floors in the same building. But of course, unearthing old stuff and memories and ghosts. Here’s an interesting poem I just found, written sometime in the late 1980s, after I’d moved out of the place I lived since I was six, and into my father’s cramped and smoky apartment.


my life won’t fit into these boxes
something will be left behind,
and my grief won’t fit into these cliches
something’s been lost
is being lost
I can’t even write
how I feel
I think about climbing
into a box with my things
like a pharaoh.

Leaves, Weeds, and Flowers

Some of my creative output from the early 1990s is bringing me a certain level of comfort right now. Or maybe the familiarity of these emotions isn’t exactly comfort, but it’s something I know pretty well.

the cruellest month (1994)

the august trees were already
leaving by september
when I autumned into love with you.

I pictured you in green
slipping through the forest
hiding among the oaks
like a frightened deer
or escaping into the woods
with your secrets
climbing into the longrooted branches.

wintering in this cold country
I picked icicles like fruit
looking for a sign of you.
when spring came, my icicles
turned and ran
through my fingers
and my torn hands healed.

the forest in green
ran me through, living
while my small love died.

in the weeds (1994)

In The Weeds (1994) by James McNally

bad flowers (1992)

vomited petals
and the taste of roses
that bouquet I ate
it wasn’t love after all.