Even though I won’t be celebrating Thanksgiving in Saratoga Springs this year, I have many fond memories of Turkey Day in the Spa City. In my younger years, we either celebrated at home on Second Street, stuffing ourselves full of turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, and stuffing (my favorite); or we’d pack into the family car and celebrate in Schenectady at my grandparents’ house, my grandma always making a point of preparing creamed onions for me (I’d expressed an early passion for them).
At various times during the day, we’d also be glued to the television set, with favorites such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the various National Football League games and TBS’ James Bond movie marathon playing on a loop in the background. And in my household, at least, there was always some kind of music being played somewhere. Whether it was me on the piano or cello, by brother and dad on the violin, or the warm crackle of the record player spinning in the corner, our house was always full of the sweet sounds of music.
I’d like yours to be, too, this Thanksgiving Day and weekend, for that matter. So here’s the perfect (Saratoga) Thanksgiving playlist that you should be blaring in your living room all day.
“Almost Thanksgiving Day” – Graham Parker
The year after this album was released, Graham Parker hooked up with Saratoga’s own The Figgs to record an album and tour extensively.
“The Bar” – The Figgs
Speaking of The Figgs, this number, penned by drummer Pete Hayes, is all about hitting your favorite local watering hole when it’s freezing outside. When I was in college, that meant Desperate Annie’s on Thanksgiving weekend and seeing a lot of people from high school. (There’s a big F-bomb in this song, so make sure it’s loud enough for all the “grownups” to hear.)
“Macy’s Day Parade” – Green Day
File this one under “the softer side of Green Day.” You might even be able to play it for said adults, who’ve probably retired to the dining room with giant tumblers of brown liquid, horrified by the curse word they just heard in The Figgs song.
“Do You Like Worms (Roll Plymouth Rock)” – The Beach Boys
Beach Boys’ maestro Brian Wilson planned to release what he was calling the “teenage symphony to God” as a follow-up to 1966’s groundbreaking Pet Sounds. That work-in-progress was to be entitled, Smile, but it didn’t see the light of day until 2011 (Wilson also released his own version of the album as a solo artist in 2004). I don’t like worms, but the pilgrims, who celebrated the first Thanksgiving Day, arrived at Plymouth Rock, so I guess this one’s relevant to the holiday.
“Young Pilgrims” – The Shins
How about them pilgrims! Many of them were young, too!
“Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” – Arlo Guthrie
What Thanksgiving would be complete without at least one spin of this 18-minute-and-37-second-long Arlo Guthrie classic?
“Thank You Friends” – Big Star
Thanksgiving is as much about seeing your family as it is celebrating with your friends. Happy Friendsgiving.
“Birds” – Neil Young
Look, I know Uncle Neil’s probably not singing about turkeys here, but we’ve got to give them a little love on a day like this. Unless, of course, you’re a vegetarian and enjoying a not-so-tasty tofurky.
“The Thanksgiving Filter” – The Drive-By Truckers
The Drive-By Truckers are one of the greatest rock bands out there today. Period. And Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, who recently played The Egg, are about as formidable a songwriting duo as I’ve ever heard. This number from Hood, who’s the son of one of Muscle Shoals’ Swampers mentioned in the Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Sweet Home Alabama,” is nice and wordy and has a wonderful chorus. Perfect coffee-hour fare.
“Mr. Impossible” – Phantogram
This one’s dedicated to the uncle at the dinner table wearing the red hat over his combover and “filling everybody in” about his favorite political party. And it’s also a major banger from Saratoga band Phantogram.
“The Traveler” – Julia Alsarraf
If you’re hitting the road on the busiest travel day of the year, this is a road trip track for the ages from Troy folkie Julia Alsarraf. It’s about as close to an earworm as I’ve heard from a local artist. (I also had the pleasure of hearing her play it in my living room during a recent jam session.)
“In The Kitchen” – Zan & The Winter Folk
Zan & The Winter Folk are easy listenin’ folkies from the Collar City, who perform in the same circles as Julia Alsarraf. My guess is you’ll be in the kitchen at some point on Thanksgiving Day. This should be your theme song.
“Whatever Makes You Happy” – Lughead
WEQX, the local alternative rock station, used to play this song from Albany band Lughead all the time in the ’90s. Its title is a great refrain for your hardworking parent, who’s been in that kitchen all day. “Whatever makes you happy, mom/dad.”
“Homesick” – Train
Away from your loved ones on Thanksgiving? Here’s a dropped-D deep-cut from Train’s first album that will help soothe your aching heart. The track also features Train’s original drummer Scott Underwood, who grew up in Saratoga.
“The Idiot Box” – Shadows Fall
Every family in the Capital Region will spend part of Thanksgiving Day in front of the television, which I like to refer to as “the idiot box.” Here’s a song of the same name by Shadows Fall, whose drummer, Jason Bittner, grew up in nearby Niskayuna.
“Dear Mama” – Tupac Shakur
Rhymes hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur in his Grammy-nominated single, “Dear Mama”: “You just working with the scraps you was given/And mama made miracles every Thanksgiving.” Give your mom a hug today; she deserves one.
“Best of the Best of Times” – Darlingside
OK, so this song is more of a cautionary tale about what the future might hold if we don’t get our sh*t together, but I’d like to spin it in a different direction: After Thanksgiving, the best of the best of times are actually Hanukkah and Christmas and everything else locals celebrate as families in December. So enjoy the holidays while they last.