It might be too musically diverse to actually serve as the final reward for anyone other than myself, but as far as I'm concerned, this mix is indeed heavenly. It's a shame we've imposed this arbitrary 15-song limit, since it means leaving out Bacharach & David's "You'll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart)," the Pet Shop Boys' "Closer to Heaven," and, of course, Belinda Carlisle's "Heaven Is a Place on Earth." (That one really hurt.) Ultimately, though, it's clear that the Bee Gees knew the problem I'd be facing before I did…and if I actually have to spell that joke out for you, you don't deserve to get it.
"Heaven," the Psychedelic Furs (Mirror Moves)
I'm sure I've got a couple of dozen different songs in my CD collection that are simply called "Heaven," but this is the one that first came to mind, so that's the one that's starting the mix. (It also didn't hurt that, as soon as I thought of the song, I immediately had a vision of Richard Butler spinning in the rain.)
"Jackie Wilson Said (I'm In Heaven When You Smile),"
Dexys Midnight Runners (Too-Rye-Ay)
They're only a one-hit wonder if you're in the USA, thanks very much; this Van Morrison cover was actually a Top Five hit for the band in the UK. I had no idea it was a cover 'til I read the liner notes to the CD, as it sounds as much like a Kevin Rowland original as everything else on the album. I tried really hard to like Don't Stand Me Down as much as Too-Rye-Ay, but I just couldn't. That said, however, I really need to get around to picking up Searching for the Young Soul Rebels one of these days; I don't think I've ever seen a bad review for it.
"Rip in Heaven," 'Til Tuesday (Everything's Different Now)
This one goes out to David Medsker; he might not own everything Aimee Mann's ever been involved in, but he's as big a fan of her work as anyone I know. People who didn't even know who Jules Shear was hated him after hearing this album, just because the relationship between him and Aimee didn't work out. They didn't even have to get all the way to "J for Jules"; they just needed to hear this song. "It's funny how you just assume you're going to work it out or give it at least a try," sang Ms. Mann, "but optimistic feelings can't be passed from hand to hand. You handle them, they tend to die." Dammit, Jules, couldn't you have tried just a little harder?
"Wear Your Love Like Heaven," Donovan (A Gift from a Flower to a Garden)
Oh, that Donovan. He sure was…and still is, for that matter…one hippy-dippy son of a bitch. But, oh, how I love his music, even if I still don't know exactly what the hell he's singing in the second verse. My best guess: "Color sky havana lake / Color sky rose carmarthen / Alizarin crimson." I have no clue if that's actually right, but, oddly, my not knowing for sure has never affected my enjoyment of the song.
"If Heaven Ain't a Lot Like Dixie," Hank Williams, Jr. (High Notes)
This album came out in 1982, which is why I remember the song, but it was also right at the point where I was moving away from my Cash / Jennings / Nelson upbringing and heading into the wonders that MTV had to offer. But, hey, I grew up in the backyard of one of American's most notable country music stations – WCMS – so I listened to it plenty enough for the stuff to make a permanent impression. I can't say as I really got into Hank, Jr. at that time, but after having "A Country Boy Can Survive" shoved down my throat for several weeks during college – thank you, Damian McBride – I have since learned to accept him as a country music legend.
"Heaven Knows," Robert Plant (Now & Zen)
To this day, the years I spent listening to classic-rock radio have prevented me from plunking down the money for so much as a single Led Zeppelin CD – which means that, yes, this is a "no 'Stairway to Heaven'" zone – but at some point, I found a decently-priced copy of this Robert Plant solo album and added it to my collection. The one-two-three punch of this, "Dance on My Own," and "Tall Cool One," not to mention the later appearance of "Ship of Fools," will forever be enough to keep it in my possession.
"Heaven Sent," INXS (Welcome to Wherever You Are)
Just when America's love affair with INXS ended, the band decided to drop one of its most interesting albums. I say "interesting" rather than "best" not because I don't love it (in fact, it's one of my favorite albums by the band) but simply because even if you disagree about its overall quality, you still have to give them credit for trying something that wasn't just another Kick retread. After the palate-cleansing opening track that was "Questions," this song kicked the album into overdrive, a stance from which it rarely deviated.
"Halfway to Heaven," Dr. Robert (Besthesda)
What better way to celebrate the midway point of the mix than with this track from the former frontman for the Blow Monkeys? Sorry, he's actually not former any more; the band's back together and in the studio as I write this line. But don't let the band having a new album stop you from investigating the good Doctor's solo catalog. He's got five studio releases to his name (plus a collaborative effort with P.P. Arnold), and they're all brilliant.
"Lookin' Up in Heaven," Paul Westerberg (Folker)
A lot of hardcore Replacements fans just couldn't hang with the less-rockin' direction Paul Westerberg took when he left his boys Tommy and Slim behind, but he had me hooked the second he whipped out "Dyslexic Heart" and "Waiting for Somebody" for Cameron Crowe's Singles soundtrack. Granted, everything he's done since then hasn't been 100% classic, but this track's sound harks so readily back to those first two solo singles that it can't be denied.
"Monkey Gone to Heaven," Pixies (Doolittle)
I had friends who swore up and down that Surfer Rosa was absolutely and positively the shit, but with the possible exception of "Gigantic," I just wasn't hearing it. Then Doolittle came out, and suddenly I was a believer…well, in the Pixies, anyway. (I still don't own Surfer Rosa, though.)
"Heaven or Las Vegas," Cocteau Twins (Heaven or Las Vegas)
It's either one or the other, right? Yeah, funny how Sin City's never picked this up as a theme song. Once the Cocteau Twins moved to a major label, things were never quite the same for them; I suspect someone at Capitol thought they could take Elizabeth Fraser and convince Americans that she was the Enya for the alt-rock set, but "Carolyn's Fingers" (the first single from Blue Bell Knoll) didn't do it, and, sadly, neither did this.
"The Edge of Heaven,"
Wham! (Music from the Edge of Heaven)
Though I'm sure diehard fans of the band would argue otherwise, I've always thought of this as the great forgotten Wham! single. It wasn't that it did all that poorly – indeed, it made it to #10 on the US charts – but its arrival came at approximately the same time as the announcement that George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley would soon be going their separate ways. Nowadays, it doesn't get a tenth of the play of "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," but for my money, it's just as catchy. Plus, dig that '80s sax!
"Just Like Heaven," Dinosaur Jr. (You're Living All Over Me)
It would've been a bit too easy to include the Cure's original version, don't you think? The first time I heard J. Mascis and company tackling this song, I was simultaneously amused and horrified, but I've now reached the point where I enjoy hearing their version almost as much as the Cure's. Not quite, but almost.
"Take Me to Heaven," BMX Bandits (Bee Stings)
I couldn't possibly determine my single favorite Scottish pop songwriter, if only because the country has produced so many of them over the years, but if I had to put together a short list, Duglas T. Stewart of the BMX Bandits would certainly be on there. The band's profile in the States hovers somewhere between virtually nil and completely nonexistent, but that in no way affects the quality and catchiness of their tunes. This is from their most recent album, released last year, and it's as good as anything in their catalog.
"Heaven Laughs," the Hooters (Zig-Zag)
This might be closing the mix disc, but it's actually the song that inspired me to create this mix in the first place. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: when the time comes for my funeral, I wanted to make damned sure this song is played. "Heaven laughs when we say goodbye / It ain't so far to the other side / And someday soon we will meet again / Say it over and over and over 'til then." It's a simple sentiment, but you'd be surprised how well it's succeeded at getting me through the deaths of friends and family. The older I get, the happier I am to have it available to me.