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.