The Music That Made Sean Linehan
August 20, 2015
NYC instructor SEAN LINEHAN is known for his rock n' roll playlists and inspiring theme rides starring some of the most legendary bands. We challenged him to share the top 10 songs that have shaped his life. Check out which tunes made the cut...
Music is my life. It has and always will be my touchstone, my comfort, my energy, my passion. So to narrow it down to ten tracks is tough. But, I’ve been inspired by the “Music That Made Me” summer series Rolling Stone has been doing and it got me thinking about the tracks that have been particularly influential to my own musical development.
1. “Blue Jay Way” by The Beatles
I find this to be such a dark and eerie track. I love The Beatles, always have and always will. This is not my favorite track of theirs nor is it one that I listen to often. But, it holds a special place. I have a distinct memory of being around six or seven and hearing this at home. My parents were good musical influences on me. I got a lot of Beatles, Stones, Four Tops, Temptations, and Phil Spector growing up. This one track though immediately caught my ear the way no other had before. I just remember being shocked by how different it was and being in awe of that in a way.
2. “Paradise City” by Guns N' Roses
I was not a cool kid for the large bulk of my grade school and high school years. I always felt on the outside. I was about 10 or 11 years old when I first heard this song and it was off of a boombox being played by two guys from an older grade sitting right outside of the school. I wasn’t a part of anything they were, but when I heard them playing this song I wished I were. I didn’t know the track at all, but I was ready to jump on board with everything it represented.
3. “Even Flow” by Pearl Jam
The first time I saw the video for this track on MTV, I was floored. I must have been about twelve years old and for the first time I felt like this was music that spoke to ME. This was music that felt like I was a part of in some way — that understood me and I understood it in return. I actually used this as one of my audition songs for SoulCycle. I tried to articulate how important the song was to me in those 30 seconds, but pretty sure that like a tool all I managed to get out was, “I LIKE PEARL JAM!”
4. "The Wanton Song" by Led Zeppelin
I went back and forth a few times about which song to put in this slot. Here’s the thing: When I was young, 104.3 in New York City was a classical music station. Then one day, it switched over to grunge and alt rock. Through it I discovered Stone Temple Pilots, Temple of the Dog, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and much of the sound that shaped my early teenage years. Probably in 1993 or 1994 though, it switched formats again, this time to classic rock. I rediscovered much of the music I’d heard through my parents and made some new discoveries of my own — chief among those being Led Zeppelin. Hearing “Ramble On” on Q104.3 sent me down a rabbit hole of Zep worship, but at this time I was also digging deep into the Beatles and Dylan. All of that said, “The Wanton Song” was the most influential to me. My first concert ever was seeing Jimmy Page and Robert Plant at MSG. The crowd was cheering, the lights went out, and the energy was palpable. A few moments later, the opening riff of “The Wanton Song” suddenly exploded from the stage. The lights hit and Jimmy Page was standing on the bass drum playing to the back row of MSG. It was magical. I was converted to the religion of rock n’ roll then and there.
5. “Summertime” by Big Brother & The Holding Company
I actually don’t know when or where I first heard this song. “Piece of My Heart” is the type of track that’s sort of vaguely familiar to most even if you’re not a Janis fan. As somebody who at the time wasn’t familiar with her work though, I do remember this one really capturing me when I heard it. The way she sings this is stunning. Spellbinding. And the band plays the best it ever did right here — the way those two guitars weave together and constantly shift the dynamics of the song are untouchable. Hearing this song got me into a big period of Fillmore-era psychedelia. It opened the doors to The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, and The Allmans.
6. “Midnight from the Inside Out” by The Black Crowes
When “Remedy” was released as a single in 1992, I dug it. I bought the album, liked it, listened to it every once in awhile, but that was pretty much it. In 2000, The Black Crowes were touring with Oasis and I went to see them at Radio City Music Hall. They opened with this song and I was floored. The POWER. The SWAGGER. They became in that moment, and remain to this day, my favorite band. I’ve seen them more times than I care to admit.
7. “Last Nite” by The Strokes
Just before my senior year of college, a friend of mine passed me a demo tape by a band called “The Strokes” and told me they’d be big. I actually didn’t want to like them — they were a bunch of NYC prep schoolers like us. How good could they be? But, I could not stop listening to that four song demo. “Last Nite” was the standout. But the entirety of the subsequent album that followed, “Is This It?” became something of a soundtrack for what it was to be young and living in NYC after college for me and my friends.
8. “Blame it on the Sun” by Stevie Wonder
I think I bought “Talking Book” because I had heard “Superstition” and thought to myself that I really should have that on CD. “Talking Book” as a whole is a masterpiece. To me though, this was the stand out track. The emotion and power in it just blew me away. He sings “wish I could tell you what I am feeling. But words won’t come for me to speak.” One doesn’t need his words. One only needs to listen to his voice and his music. I feel like if I didn’t speak English I would still know what he was singing about. This track got me into a huge Stevie Wonder kick.
9. “The Dark End of the Street” by The Flying Burrito Brothers
This is a cover, not an original; though, neither is “Summertime” I suppose. It was a 1967 soul song covered by The Flying Burrito Brothers on their debut album. As an enormous Rolling Stones fan, I’d often heard and read about Keith Richards’ friendship with a guy named Gram Parsons. He’d been in The Byrds, then left on Keith’s advice, and started The Flying Burrito Brothers. He’s credited with bringing a lot of the country music influence into The Stones. He taught Keith how to play in open G tuning which Keith would then use on hits like “Brown Sugar” “Honky Tonk Women” and “Start Me Up.” The Flying Burrito Brothers were actually the first band to record “Wild Horses” — Keith giving it to Gram before the Stones opted to record it themselves. So, after learning all this, I had to buy this album of theirs. Gram is an amazing songwriter and his voice is unparalleled. There are songs on this album that I think are some of the best out there — of any artist. But, it was this cover that hooked me. It’s a duet for most of the track but Gram breaks solo to sing the line “If you should see me and I walk on by” before the harmony vocal joins him on the line “oh darlin, please don’t cry. Tonight we’ll meet, on the dark end of the street. You and me.” There’s just something about it that gets me every time. Gram is credited with inventing country-rock though at the time he preferred to call it “cosmic American music.” Through him I found Buck Owens, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, George Jones, and Billy Joe Shaver. I got into Johnny Cash years earlier through The Sex Pistols, but that’s another story altogether.
10. “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Billy Porter
I couldn’t possibly have a list of “the music that made me” without including this song. This version was the very first song I heard in my very first SoulCycle class. I was 100% new to the experience, had no idea what to expect, and was frankly a little intimidated by the whole scene. Then the instructor, Sue, started the music and this track came on. I was immediately hit with a feeling of “oh — well this is cool! I can hang here!” It was welcoming, it was familiar, it felt like home, it was where I wanted to be. I could have walked into any class, in any studio, on any day, and heard something very different. But, I walked into her class and heard THIS SONG and knew I wanted to stick around. “Maybe I’m amazed at the way I really need you.”
I am also amazed that no track by The Stones, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Charles Mingus, Waylon Jennings, John Lennon, or Neil Young made this list as I consider them all crucial to my musical makeup. But again, if I have to narrow it down to ten, then these have to be the ones.
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