Songs for Graduate Students

Playlist ideas strike me at the oddest times. This week, while driving to Bellingham, WA (I can’t go without Trader Joes for more than 3 months), I was listening to Supertramp and I came up with the idea for a “Graduate Student” playlist for the last leg of my upcoming cross-country roadtrip. Here is a sampling of the music that will take me from Hamilton, Ontario to New Haven Connecticut (note: incomplete and in no particular order).

1. Bloody Well Right – Supertramp

Supertramp rocks. I am willing to challenge anyone who says otherwise to a duel… at dawn… with water pistols (if you must know!) This song is one of their great classics and I think it hits right on my graduate student theme in the first verse – “so you think your schooling’s funny…” Yes, yes I do.

So you think your schooling’s funny
I guess it’s hard not to agree
You say it all depends on money
And who is in your family tree

Right,(right)you’re bloody well right
you got a bloody right to say
Right, you’re bloody well right
you know you got a right to say

Ha-ha you’re bloody well right
you know you’re right to say
Yeah-yeah you’re bloody well right
you know you’re right to say
Me, I don’t care anyway!

Write your problems down in detail
Take them to a higher place
You’ve had your cry – no, I should say wail
In the meantime hush your face

Right,(quite right)you’re bloody well right
you got a bloody right to say
Right, you’re bloody well right
you know you got a right to say

Ha-ha you’re bloody well right
you know you’re right to say
Yeah-yeah you’re bloody well right
you know you got a right to say
you got a bloody right to say (x4)

2. When I Write My Master’s Thesis – John K. Samson

Canadian musicians are pretty cool and this one happens to be the voice of one of my favourite all-time Canadain Bands (The Weakerthans… you can totally hear it!) It is pretty clear why this song belongs here. That aside, Grant Lawrence included it in his “Higher Listening” podcast for CBC Radio 3 and Grant is the arbitrer of cool as far as I am concerned.

Oh the streets of Grand Theft Auto San Andreas fill with smoke
Doorbell rings
I put my controller down and pick it up
Shoot some things

Later, the darkness hits reboot and the loneliness increases
She said she’d come back home when I write my master’s thesis

Oh the hours I spent in the archives wearing cotton gloves
Shuffling photos from the Ninette Sanatorium Halloween parties

Emaciated ghosts hiding in those curtains’ creases
I’ll let you haunt the world when I write my master’s thesis

No more marking first year papers
No more citing sources

So I left home
Cried the bumpy ride to highway twenty-three
Started west
They’ll be there to say that I don’t to take their stupid test

Greet me with banners and balloons
And my hard drive smashed to pieces
Nothing left for me to save when I write my master’s thesis
It’s all gonna change when I write my master’s thesis

3. The Infanata – The Decemberists

In order to get into graduate school, many of us had to take the GRE and a large chunk of studying for that silly test is taken up with vocabulary memorisation. If you know every word in this song without having to think hard or check the interwebs – you probably just took the GRE & are well on your way to graduate school. Alternatively, you might just be my mother whose vocabulary is freakishly large and very impressive.

Here she comes in her palanquin
On the back of an elephant
On a bed made of linen and sequins and silk
All astride on her father’s line
With the king and his concubines
And her nurse with her pitchers of liquors and milk
And we’ll all come praise the infanta
And we’ll all come praise the infanta

Among five score pachyderm
Each canopied and passengered
Sit the duke and the duchess’ luscious young girls
Within sight of the baronness
Seething spite for this live largesse
By her side sits the baron
Her barrenness barbs her
And we’ll all come praise the infanta
And we’ll all come praise the infanta

A phalanx on camelback
Thirty ranks on a forward tack
Followed close, their shiny bright standards a-waving
While behind in their coach, in fours
Ride the wives of the king of Moors
And the veiled young virgin, the prince’s betrothed
And we’ll all come praise the infanta
And we’ll all come praise the infanta

And as she sits upon her place
Her innocence laid on her face
From all atop the parapets blow a multitude of coronets
Melodies rhapsodical and fair
And all our hearts afire
The sky ablaze with cannon fire
We all raise our voices to the air
To the air

And above all this falderal
On a bed made of chaparral
She is laid, a coronal placed on her brow
And the babe, all in slumber dreams
Of a place filled with quiet streams
And the lake where her cradle was pulled from the water
And we’ll all come praise the infanta
And we’ll all come praise the infanta

4. Imitosis – Andrew Bird

Graduate school is all about answering your own “why?” or “how?” or “what next?” and Andrew Bird captures that sentiment quite nicely. Also… it has the word Professor in it.

He’s keeping busy, yeah, he’s bleeding stones
With his machinations and his palindromes
It was anything but hear the voice
Anything but hear the voice
It was anything but hear the voice that says that we’re all basically alonePoor Professor Pynchon had only good intentions when he
Put his Bunsen burners all away
And turning to a playground in a Petri dish
Where single cells would swing their fists at anything that looks like easy prey

In this nature show that rages every day
It was then he heard his intuition say
We were all basically alone

And despite what all his studies had shown
That what’s mistaken for closeness is just a case of mitosis
And why do some show no mercy while others are painfully shy?
Tell me doctor, can you quantify?
He just wants to know the reason why
The reason why

Why do they congregate in groups of four,
Scatter like a billion spores and let the wind just carry them away?
How can kids be so mean?
Our famous doctor tried to glean as he went home at the end of the day

In this nature show that rages every day
It was then he heard his intuition say
We were all basically alone

Despite what all his studies had shown
That what’s mistaken for closeness is just a case of mitosis
Sure fatal doses of malcontent through osmosis
And why do some show no mercy while others are painfully shy?
Tell me doctor, can you quantify
The reason why?

5. The Berlin Conference – The Burning Hell

If you are at graduate school for history or African studies, you should appreciate this brush-up on the Berlin Conference. I may have included this song in my blog before but that’s just because it rocks.

Why have I called you here? I guess I’ve got a thing for meetings
But please, take a chair, let’s get past the formal greetings
It’s so cold outside, let’s ponder wandering the tropics
And get to work tabling the topics that we’re here to discuss
Disgust runs through my northern veins when I consider what we’re wasting
think of the southern gains we could all be tasting
speaking of taste, waiter, another gin and tonic
Don’t look at me that way, Teutonic thirst is chronic and this is thirsty work.Let’s not be gentle, gentleman, this project’s continental
Oh, don’t worry about that spill, friend, the tablecloths are rentals
Pass me the map and the brandy, I’ve got a pen already
Where’s the ruler? Where’s the compass? Ready, hold it steady…now, will you look at that!
Some call us rivals, they say we’ve got interests not friends
Well you say tomato, and I say dividends
Divided we stand but united we’ll do business
is this civilized or what? Can I get a witness, let’s sign this and light a cigar!

Oh, far be it for me to presume or decide
I just called the meeting I’m not taking sides
Side of beef? Cider? More port or maybe champagne
from the cellar, oh waiter we’ll need you again
It’s best to be under the influence, oh
When deciding our spheres of influence, no
Scrambling’s for eggs not for colonization
Sit settle down just relax and be patient
Here is a piece of the pie for you, and here is a piece of the pie for you too
And for you, no pie, after all you came late! Do you ask for a kiss on the very first date
So lodge a complaint, it’s a hodgepodge a paint by numbers call it whatever you want
But let’s focus on finding a final agreement, OK? I’m too drunk to think any more and I say

50 is the magic number, wormless are the birds who slumber
in three months we’ll do it let’s begin

6. Sometimes in the Fall – Phoenix

Doesn’t matter how old you are or your level of education – fall is a time when universities fill up with new people… and old friends/memories/dreams. This Phoenix song captures the mix of eagerness and dread that overwhelms us when we trek back to campus in September. Note: I am starting at a new school this year so this is not really relevant. Still… good song.

Go out and tell the society
The talk of the town is on its way
This is not bad only serious
Do understand, don’t turn your back on me
Doesn’t matter heads or tails People know my sins,
I’m overwhelmed It’s the darkest night in a long long time
I’ve been up all night and walked up and down the stairs
No complaints no echoes I’m trying to be good, ain’t trying to behave well

Sometimes in the fall, fall, fall, fall
There’ll be nothing to keep you far from me
Before I am long long long gone
There’ll be nothing to keep me away

Every night at seven o’clock
Every day at six in the morning too
People calling me up here
Didn’t even take some time to look at them I’m long gone
If you’re walking around then I’ll go out too
You’ve been awake all night I’ve been lying on you thinking the same
Lonely and forsaken
Would you mind just to try a little less?

Sometimes in the fall, fall, fall, fall
There’ll be nothing to keep you far from me
Before I am long long long gone
There’ll be nothing to keep me away

And it goes on and on and on, it’s everlasting
It’s always the same when you’re next to me
Sometimes in the fall, fall, fall, fall
There’ll be nothing to keep me away

Long gone
Many eyes to see for me
Only yours to cry on my ashes
Long gone
It’s the darkest night and I’m far from you
You’ve been awake all night
He’s a Nobel Prize I said
Too many eyes to see for me
Only yours to cry on my ashes
Long gone If the countdown on the Eiffel Tower
Could show less than ten but more than a hundred
Tired to look at your photographs
That night through the phone you’ve been asking for more

Sometimes in the fall, fall, fall, fall
There’ll be nothing to keep you far from me
Before I am long long long gone
There’ll be nothing to keep me away

And it goes on and on and on, it’s everlasting
It’s always the same when you’re next to me
Sometimes in the fall, fall, fall, fall
There’ll be nothing to keep me away

7. How Could it Take So Long – Jessee Harris

Okay… this one is a bit tongue in cheek.

In the darkness I’ve been waitin’
I’ve been hungry, hidin’, hatin’
All the silence; can’t you even hear?
How could it take so long to appear

There was water in the sky then
There was water makin’ islands
Now there’s water fallin’ in a tear
How could it take so long to appear?

Some need something they can lie on
Some need something they can die on
All I need’s a bus to anywhere
How could it take so long to appear?

I have no one to go back to
I am nothing on my back, too
Just the sun if all the clouds were clear
How could it take so long to appear?
How could it take so long to appear?

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