The other afternoon my eight-year-old stepdaughter and I were playing Keep-It-Up in the kitchen with an under-inflated purple balloon, and Leather and Lace came on. It turned out that the Stevie Nicks and Don Henley duet, with its ultra-plaintive tone, was the perfect (and I perfect I mean absurd and melodramatic) background music for me and the little girl whacking a balloon and watching it float across the room.
Naturally, I asked myself: what are some other great balloon songs, as I will now be terming them. Here’s my top five:
- Leather and Lace—Stevie Nicks. See above anecdote.
2. I’ll Keep It With Mine—Nico
Nico’s icy flat delivery meets Bob Dylan drama. I’m giving this the Nobel Prize for Balloon songs.
3. Helpless—Neil Young
I considered at several possibilities from Neil Young—that voice is just built for this, right?—and nearly settled on After the Gold Rush. But then I read something about The Last Waltz and remembered the background vocals of Joni Mitchell, which are the best thing in the entirety of the Last Waltz, let alone this track. And this selection gets some much-needed plaintive harmonica onto the list.
4. Love Hurts—The Everly Brothers
In college I would sometimes go to parties hosted by this woman who went to NYU. One of the trademarks of these parties was that around 1 a.m. she, or perhaps her sister, would put on Love Hurts, the Nazareth version. It was only this year that I discovered this song was originally recorded by the Everly Brothers. P.S. The woman who hosted these parties went on to became a director of notable Hollywood motion pictures, but I won’t say who she is because name-dropping is so lame.
5. Wichita Lineman—Friends of Dean Martinez
I honestly have no idea how I came to be aware of this version of this song, but it came up on my Spotify while I was thinking about this topic, and holy crap this really embodies it. This is the one.
Hello. Judging from traffic numbers, and how they spike after my wife mentions my name in public, I assume a good many readers have arrived here because of an interest in Jen. Welcome. These comments for you:
- First, congratulations on being a fan of Jen’s. You’ve made a wise choice. Not only is she prodigiously talented—I’ve seen her write, and it’s like Mozart’s composition scenes from the movie Amadeus—but she is amazingly genuine and conscientious. She strives in every book to be herself and to give her fans their money’s worth.
- Second, while you’re here: my choice for most underappreciated Jennifer Weiner novel: Then Came You. In addition to presenting four classic heroines, Jen’s story, without drawing attention to it, quietly outlines how economic status can influence the most personal of life choices. I would love for this book to become the foundation of a television series.
- Third, if you’ve looked around here, you may have noticed that in addition to being a reader and writer, I am a sports guy. I worked for many years at Sports Illustrated as a staff reporter and editor, and continue to work for SI on freelance projects. I also wrote a novel in which the protagonist is a punter. Jen likes exercise but is not a fan of spectator sports. How does this play out in our marriage? Let me give you a real piece of dialogue from this past Sunday morning:
JEN (reading news on her phone): They think they’ve figured out Elsa Ferrante’s real identity.
ME: Is it Arvydas Sabonis, who Bill Walton said was one of the top five centers he’d ever seen play, when Sabonis was back in Russia, before his knee injuries?
- Finally, Jen and I were married on March 19, 2016. The full story of our relationship is told in her new nonfiction book Hungry Heart, in a chapter titled “Men and Dogs.” The above Elsa Ferrante scene notwithstanding, if you are wondering, “How will being married to a 6’4”, 202-pound, semitic Adonis change Jen’s outlook on life?” I suggest you ask her that, using those terms, at her next reading.