The Best Song In The World Today

Radio Sweetheart Loves Big Star's "El Goodo"

Radio Sweethearts

Kerry Crawford and Matthew Trisler Courtesy of Radio Sweethearts hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Radio Sweethearts

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Radio Sweethearts on the BPP

Matthew Trisler and Kerry Crawford run Radio Sweethearts, a website (and Twitter account) that grew out of their suspicion that one NPR host has a crush on another one. Specifically, they think On the Media's Bob Garfield is sweet on Brooke Gladstone.

Meanwhile, Trisler picked Big Star's "The Ballad of El Goodo" as the Best Song in the World Today. He tells about it for the show today.

After the jump, Matthew Trisler's explains (plus: a cool pic).

Special to the BPP from Matthew Trisler:

It's taken me seven years total, for a wealth of reasons, but next month, I'm finally finishing my Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writing. And over the last couple months, between classwork, my geeky fan blog about public radio, and all the podcasts I let add up, I've begun to feel that I've completely lost track of music.

Music's supposed to be my first love. I have about 40 gigabytes of the stuff on my computer. I buy about five or six records a month. I own four guitars, two harmonicas, a banjo, a concertina, and a glockenspiel. If I can't find the right song to go on a mixtape, I've been known to sit down and write the song I need.

Radio Sweethearts

Kerry Crawford and Matthew Trisler rock. Courtesy of Radio Sweethearts hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Radio Sweethearts

But I've gotten distracted. I've found myself turned around and lost. Which is why in the last week I've decided I need to prune back the podcasts. At one point last week I had roughly 26 hours' worth that I just wasn't going to get around to; I had a pathetically hard time admitting that.

I've already started culling. The ones I always mean to listen to and never do had to go. As did one which was the project of a friend of a friend, and which was overlong and underfunny. And, with apologies to Garrison Keillor, so did the Writer's Almanac. That program was always a sacred moment for me every day — until I could listen to it whenever I chose.

But where do you start when you come back to music after you've completely lost track of what you even enjoy? I have the stock favorite albums; between the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde, you can hear everything I love about music.

But neither feels right. I need something to remind me that I love music and offer only the slightest intimations of why; I'm looking for a great song, not a thesis about the history of music.

I keep coming back to "The Ballad of El Goodo" by Big Star.

I remember how I found them. My favorite band mentioned their favorite band. When I grew to love that band, I found out that their favorite band was Big Star. I didn't bother going back any further. The CD I bought at the end of high school had their first two records, #1 Record and Radio City.

These two records are tightly focused classic rock gems that made me wonder why I hadn't grown up with them. I grilled my parents (who were in high school themselves at the time #1 Record was released), and though they couldn't remember them, they agreed based on sound alone that Big Star was criminally overlooked. (There's a huge story behind just how criminal their commercial failure was. It's been better written by other people, and it's not my story anyway.)

This song, "The Ballad of El Goodo," seems to speak to their initial struggle for recognition. It's all Alex Chilton writing about how he's been ready for life to start happening to him, ready for things to start falling into place, and how it's just not happening.

The song demands my attention in a way nothing else can right now. It holds out and holds within itself the promise that we're all going to get what we deserve, for good or ill, "if we can/ just, uh, hold on." But the chorus, "Ain't no one going/ to turn me around" expresses the same overarching defiance that I've had to embrace in order to just slog through the seven years, six (officially declared) majors, and two schools that constitute my college experience.

Not to mention it's just awesome, and pretty, and everything the song that gets me back into music after drifting away should be. The "everything's gonna work out because I'm gonna make it freaking work" sentiment is just a nice bonus.

Matthew Trisler

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I gotta say, when I first hopped on the live stream this morning it was the part where they were talking about Carl Kasell walking around in a smoking jacket with NPR hotties. It took me a couple minutes to catch up and realize that Carl doesn't actually walk around with groupies.

And I agree that Alison seems like someone with whom you could TP someone's house but Rachel seems like a closet uber geek. Not derogatory! I can't remember what gave me that impression initially, but she seems like someone who is way geekier than everyone else at the BPP but hides it.

Sent by Sarah Lee | 4:09 PM | 4-18-2008

Matthew Trisler is my hero and indubitably my personal greatest living breathing advertisement for OTM and, really, all things of NPR-dom. Long live Radio Sweethearts and long may Matthew and Kerry, its wonderfully geeky-awesome creators, blog all our faces off.

Sent by Matt Bloom | 10:02 PM | 4-20-2008