Sunday, May 15, 2011

Luna Sea Radio: 12,000 Songs, 33.33 Days

As a very special gift for my 50th birthday, my friend and Critics At Large colleague, Kevin Courrier, made me 45 mp3 discs containing hundreds upon hundreds of songs. His intention had been to do 50 discs, but he ran out of songs. He has since made three more, bringing the total to 48 and he recently promised the last two to bring it to the full 50.

I started listening to this fantastic array of music in November 2009, a couple of months after the actual 'eventful' day. I did a very rough calculation that there were 48 discs, containing about 250 songs each. The total was 12,000 songs. If the average song length was 4 minutes, it would work out to about 48,000 minutes of music. To turn that into days, I divided by 60 to give me hours and then 24 to give me days. It worked out to 33.33 days. In other words, if I played Kevin's mp3s every day, it would take me 33.33 days to listen to it all (or, in the parlance of the old long-play LP, 33 1/3). I found that incredibly appropriate. I picked the song total at random without any idea what it would turn out to be. That it was 33 1/3 seemed right. It didn't take me 33.33 days; it took me 18 months. I didn't listen every day. I tended to only put the discs on while writing at work (yes, I work as a professional writer when I'm not writing a blog – addicted, or what?), so I didn't hear the discs on the weekend (with the exception of four discs I brought home with me and listened to out of order). Around the time of my book launch on October 19, 2011, I made two 75-minute discs of French music that for about a month became my preferred listening. As I've outlined in my post on U2's "Beautiful Day," I find music is my best way to keep a, well, beautiful day, or in this case night, alive. So, I interrupted the flow of Kevin's music with those two discs of French songs. So, it probably should have only taken me 17 months.

Kevin described it for me as a radio station that featured a vast array of music, covering a multitude of performers, styles and genres. The only thing he asked is that I listen to each disc as he created it and in the proper order. The only time I broke that was when I took discs 46 through 48 home and listened to them there (and for some reason, I had disc 3 at home too). He called it Luna Sea Radio. That is also very appropriate, because most people would find the way the discs flowed as, well, loony.

Now, I won't lie. Not all the music on these discs was to my taste. I like Frank Zappa, Randy Newman, Bob Dylan, doo-wop music and sea shanties (yes, Kevin has a thing for sea shanties ... Who knew?) fine, but not as much as Kevin does. I admit, I sometimes skipped them, but that never mattered because there were dozens and dozens and dozens of intriguing songs all around those that didn't float my boat. Over the course of the months, I discovered that Kevin had unwittingly included, as little gifts, songs I no longer had copies of. Tracks like The Motors’ great, unfairly unknown 1980 New Wave song, “Love and Loneliness”; many of the Ian Dury songs I have always cherished; Ultravox songs, with John Foxx on vocals, such as “The Wild, the Beautiful and the Damned”; Strawbs’ “Hero and Heroine”; Gordon Lightfoot's “If You Could Read My Mind” ... on and on and on. But let’s get back to the 'set list.' One thing you should know about Kevin is that, if he were ever to give you a mixtape (and this was one ginormous mixtape), it would slam genres, styles, eras and singers altogether in ways that you'd never imagined would work. On a Courrier disc, electronica would sit next to Delta blues, which would be beside classic music, beside hip-hop, beside '60s rock, beside old-school jazz, beside punk, beside the previously-mentioned sea shanties. And it all would work.

In the early days of listening to Luna Sea Radio, I made endless lists of fascinating songs that I sometimes knew, or had never heard of. My plan is to eventually make my own mixtape from the larger collection (I have always written to music, so as I ramp up to write my second novel, I created the list of songs that I could make a 'writing disc or two' for). On Disc One, I noted Band of Horses’ “The Funeral” (never heard of them, but a great song); Pere Ubu’s “Wasted” (knew them, but not the song – Kevin maintains this is a sea shanty); Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy” (a favourite from my seminal music years); David Raksin's “Laura's Theme”; Endless Boogie’s “Smokin' Figs in the Yard” (no idea who they are, but love the song); Echo and the Bunnyman’s ….um, can't read my handwriting. See what I mean? This music is all over the place. Sure, it's a summary of the music that Kevin loves, but it is also a truly amazing journey of discovery.

It was also a tremendous gift from a real friend. He freely admitted there would be songs I wouldn't like (he was right), but he also thought, very accurately, there would be lots that I would. In fact, this is one of the many places that I've always connected with Kevin – our eclectic taste in everything from music, books and movies (I can watch an Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie one night and a Chris Marker 'film journal' like Sans Soleil followed by a drama like The Social Network and love them all – Kevin is the same way – okay, maybe he doesn't like a movie where lots of shit blows up like I do, but sometimes he does, yeah).

While I'm waiting for Kevin to burn me the last two discs what am I going to do? Start at disc 1 again, of course. We are always changing, so undoubtedly there will be songs this time I like that I didn't like the first time, and songs I liked the first time through I won't this time. It's been one hell of a journey and I can't wait to experience it again.

For a taste of a personal favourite that is not as well known as it should be, do yourself a favour and check out The Motors’ “Love and Loneliness” here. You may not love it, but I sure do (okay, there's probably too much synthesizer, but too bad).

And here are just two discoveries I encountered on Kevin's discs. One band I knew, the other I didn't.

Pere Ubu's “Wasted”
Well, could only find someone doing a cover version on YouTube, but here's a wonderful live performance on David Letterman of a song I've just discovered while looking for “Wasted” called “Oh Catherine”. It starts about 2 minutes in after Letterman's intro.

Band of Horses “The Funeral”

David Churchill is a film critic and author of the novel The Empire of Death. You can read an excerpt here. Or go to for more information


  1. Hey David -- if you want, I can get you 12,000 old time music (OTM) tunes, and interlace them with 6,000 or so Glenn Millers...that would drive you batty. Maybe I can also add all of writer Peter Newman's Stan Kentons...

    But maybe that wouldn't play well, sort of like an admixture. It has to be more personal. How about if I just call you and sing "Happy Birthday" when you nail 60...

  2. Haha I was brought here after a google search for the Japanese band LUNA SEA. I bet none of their songs were on your "radio" xD