AISHA HARRIS, HOST:
A warning - this episode contains explicit language.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
HARRIS: If you travel by plane with any regularity, you've been there - stuck in an airport because your flight is delayed.
STEPHEN THOMPSON, HOST:
So we thought it best to give your most stressful travel moments a soundtrack. I'm Stephen Thompson.
HARRIS: And I'm Aisha Harris. And on this episode of NPR's POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR, we're recommending songs for when your flight is delayed.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
HARRIS: It's just the two of us today, so let's get to it. The assignment is pretty simple - come up with a short playlist of songs that might be useful when you're stuck at the airport. And Stephen, you brought us three songs today. And I got to admit, when I was first going into this, I was like, I'm curious what kind of songs you were going to pick here. And I was not expecting the direction that you went in, but I was very pleasantly surprised, so...
THOMPSON: I thought you were going to totally screw this up.
HARRIS: No, no, no, no. I'm very excited for people to hear what you chose. So give us your first pick for when you are stuck at the airport and you are hating everything about life.
THOMPSON: Well, I thought I'd actually take us in a few different directions, and we'll start out mellow and get a little more intense as we go along. But the first thing that came to mind was "Music For Airports" by Brian Eno, which is a piece of ambient music that is kind of designed to be, in a way, almost like elevator music - ambient pieces that bring to mind the vibe the airport hopes you get. Then what I thought about was the airport that I have spent, by far, the most of my life stuck at, which is O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.
THOMPSON: I used to have to fly through O'Hare to get to Madison, where I lived for many years. Now, O'Hare has an underground walkway through which they have strung up all these, like, glowy (ph) neon lights, and they play this twinkly new-age music. And I always used to refer to that as the new-age walkway. And so I wanted to pick a piece of music that conjured a little bit of the vibe of the new-age walkway because sometimes when I was stuck in O'Hare, I would just walk up and down the new-age walkway and kind of - imagining myself to be, like, a traveler in the future. So the piece of music I picked is by a guy named Edward Larry Gordon, who records under the name Laraaji. And Laraaji has worked with Brian Eno. And I think that the piece that I brought here kind of conjures some of the vibe that Eno was going for and kind of the vibe that runs through a lot of Laraaji's music, which I really love. This is from a piece called "Introspection."
(SOUNDBITE OF LARAAJI'S "INTROSPECTION")
THOMPSON: You'll note the sense of calm.
THOMPSON: You might even get a sense memory of a massage.
HARRIS: I was going to say it's giving, like, hot stone massage...
HARRIS: ...Like, yes. I dig it.
THOMPSON: When you're walking around the airport listening to Laraaji on your headphones, it is trying to just kind of slow your blood because if you're like me and you're an anxious person, and you're stuck in the airport, you want something that's going to slow the blood a little bit, something that's going to calm you down, something that's going to transport you to another place. And I think Laraaji's music is really good for that.
HARRIS: I like this pick, especially because I am like you, Stephen. I am very anxious when that happens, especially if you have a connecting flight and you're just worried about that. This feels like it would transport you into that spa room, where maybe it's a little warm and cozy and someone might be giving you a nice massage on your shoulders and rubbing out those knots. And yeah, I dig it.
THOMPSON: That's the dream.
HARRIS: Yes, yes. So that's "Introspection" by Laraaji. All right, so what is your next pick?
THOMPSON: There are some slight similarities, but the song has a little more urgency to it. The next pick is by a group called Spiritualized. Spiritualized makes kind of space rock music, I guess, for lack of a better term. I wanted something transporting but a little bit peaceful at the same time. I'll explain a little more about the vibe that I'm going for after we hear a piece of the song. This is from "Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN WE ARE FLOATING IN SPACE")
SPIRITUALIZED: (Singing) All I want in life's a little bit of love to take the pain away - getting strong today, a giant step each day...
(Singing) I will love you till I die, and I will love you all the time. So please put...
HARRIS: I'm getting a little Bowie-ish (ph), a little bit. Yeah. Space, yes.
THOMPSON: Yeah, some of those spacier (ph) elements are coming through. It's also a song that's performed in the round. So more and more is added to it as it goes along. It starts out very, very quiet. There's just this voice saying, (imitating British woman) ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space.
And then the song builds up from that. What I love about this song - this is one of my favorite songs of the '90s. I love this song. And the vibe that it captures that I think is appropriate to being stuck in the airport - this is a song that is conveying loneliness and a desire for connection with a note of humanity that you're kind of picking up even as the din is picking up around you. And so there's a little bit of, like, I'm an astronaut floating through the void, but also just this yearning for connectedness that I think can kind of provide comfort when you're in an airport, which is a very, very alienating place.
HARRIS: Yeah. And this also just feels like a perfect thing to have directly implanted if you're, like, wearing headphones just, like, sucked in into your earlobes because you are going to be surrounded by people, you're going to be surrounded by noises and babies crying...
HARRIS: ...And people talking. And the last thing you want to do, or at least the last thing I want to do, is have to hear any of that. So this seems like it would easily drown that out in the calmest way possible.
THOMPSON: That is a very good point. I'm really glad you mentioned that 'cause that is another thing I was thinking of with this song - is that it is a song that acquires a certain amount of clutter as it's going along. Anybody who's spent any time in an airport knows those announcements that are just constantly cranking overhead, in addition to just the din made by all those people, well, ugh...
THOMPSON: ...This song, I think, absorbs a lot of that really nicely.
HARRIS: Yeah. So that is "Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space" by Spiritualized. Stephen round it out. What is our last pick here?
THOMPSON: (Laughter) Well, I thought, A, I'd get a little more aggressive with each pick. B, I thought I would get a little bit older with each pick - kind of go farther and farther back in time. So my third pick is "Hair Of The Dog" from 1975 by the Scottish rock band Nazareth.
A, this song rules. B, this song has a use of cowbell that is somehow even more flagrant than the use of cowbell in "Don't Fear The Reaper." This is one of the most cowbell-forward songs in the history of rock and roll. And C, this song is on this list because I want you to take your power back.
THOMPSON: Being stuck in an airport is a very disempowering experience. You are entirely at the mercy of forces beyond your control - be they weather or airlines that don't know what they're doing or any number of things. This song is for when you're stuck at the airport and you've got a long stretch of walkway and you just need to strut.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAIR OF THE DOG")
NAZARETH: (Singing) Now you're messin' with a son of a b****. Now you're messin' with a son of a b****. Now you're messin' with a son of a b****. Now you're messin' with a son of a b****.
THOMPSON: Delay my flight, will you?
HARRIS: Look, I appreciate this hard left turn into rage.
HARRIS: Like, funky rage - like you said, there's a strut to it, but it's still - it's angry. I feel it.
THOMPSON: I'm sort of amazed that this song isn't quite as much of a standard as it could be, that this song doesn't just get needle-dropped into every movie, you know? And like, OK, let's retire "The Boys Are Back In Town."
HARRIS: Oh, my God. Yes, please.
THOMPSON: Let's retire "Taking Care Of Business." Let's install in their place, "Hair Of The Dog" by Nazareth - a song that still 100% rules. It would give me even a spark of joy to something as miserable as being stuck in an airport, to hear this song blaring through my headphones.
HARRIS: Yeah. Well, you know, whatever great director makes a movie where there's a scene and a character is stuck in the airport, they know what cue they need to use (laughter).
THOMPSON: That's right. That's right. This is the song you listen to when you're ready to take back your power.
HARRIS: You heard it here first.
HARRIS: Take back your power at the airport by listening to "Hair Of The Dog" by Nazareth (laughter). Well, Stephen, these are great picks. And I love how we kind of, like, upped the ante a little bit every one.
THOMPSON: You got to zig when people think you're going to zag (laughter).
HARRIS: Yeah. And, you know, I think it's good for every element, especially like the first hour of your waiting...
THOMPSON: That's right.
HARRIS: ...And then the second hour and then the third hour when you just can't take it anymore. You can just let it all out.
HARRIS: Well, we want to know your favorite songs to play when your flight is delayed. Find us at facebook.com/pchh. Take your power back, y'all.
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HARRIS: That brings us to the end of our show. Thanks so much for being here, Stephen, and for helping us figure out how we deal with this most common of problems.
THOMPSON: Thank you, Aisha.
HARRIS: This episode was produced by Mike Katzif and edited by Jessica Reedy. Hello Come In provides our theme music that's not quite as rageful as "Hair Of The Dog," but...
THOMPSON: Not yet anyway.
HARRIS: Not yet anyway. Well, thank you for listening to POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. I'm Aisha Harris, and we'll see you all tomorrow.
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