Creative Playlists

This post rises from the ashes of an article I penned sometime back; On the Celebration of Creativity, at that time, one of my avid followers Juandre Hayton requested that I share my (creative) playlists, the music I listen to when I want to be inspired. Sorry its taken so long Juandre and thanks for the reminder – mate 🙂

I have at least 5 playlists that I plug into, and they are mainly dominated by Bob, Bruce and David. The lyrics of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen always come to the fore – my Bob&Bruce playlist, which is collectively all their music that I have, over a 1,000 songs, even keeps me company on long runs, MTB rides and gym workouts (lexiebrookeblog) Within the playlist, Bruce’s 3 raw acoustic albums Nebraska, Devils and Dust and The Ghost of Tom Joad dominate, at times I just let an album play out, in its entirety  …..  in my trusty headphones.

These, the are the music playlists, that keep me flitting on the edges of deep dark thoughtful emotions.

“A great deal of poetic work has arisen from various despairs.”

Lou Andreas-Salomé, the First Woman Psychoanalyst, on Depression and Creativity in Letters to Rilke

Play List Titles

Each list serves a different inspirational purpose – and it really just depends on my mood on the day, at times I start with one playlist and then switch to another.

Bob&Bruce: collectively all their music that I have, about 1,000 plus songs. These two articles discuss my Fav Bob albums and songs, the songs/albums that inspire me: My Top 10 Bob Dylan Songs and My Top 10 Bob Dylan Love Songs

Prog Rock Rules: I love the melodic, synth, orchestral sounds of (Classic) Progressive Rock; here you will find Wendy Carlos, Rick Wakeman, Iron Butterfly, ELP, Tonoto’s Expanding Headband, King Crimson, Tangerine Dream, Alan Parsons and Strawbs.

Obscured at the Rainbow: includes my favourite Pink Floyd Albums (Dark Side, Wish You Were Here, Momentary Lapse, Endless River, Division Bell, Zabriskie Point) and the 4 solo albums of David Gilmour. read about my love of Gilmour here: The Solace in the Silence

The Boss: Just Bruce, but then I do play some albums on their own, the three I mentioned above, plus Magic, The Rising, We Shall Overcome … and others 🙂  Check out this article to read my perspective on the songs of Bruce: The Bard of New Jersey

Ulver: I have a preference for their more recent experimental albums; THEMES FROM WILLIAM BLAKE’S THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN AND HELL , The Assassination of Julius Caesar, Wars of the Roses, Blood Inside and Shadows of the Sun. Check them out at: Ulver

These songs/music help me step back and detach, or at times just drag me right into their maw. I hope you enjoy the journey when you dive into them, and I would love to hear about your inspirational music.

FYI: I was listening to Bruce’s Devils and Dust album while penning this post 🙂

“It’s by writing… by stepping back a bit from the real thing to look at it, that we are most present.”

Alison Bechdel on Writing, Therapy, Self-Doubt, and How the Messiness of Life Feeds the Creative Conscience

The Ballad of Nikkie Jean

sub-titled – the ballerina assassin @nikkiejanee1972

in the still of the night

as we chase the sunset

candles flicker in the wind

the swan lies in repose

the pirouette slows

en pointe is driven home



when the deal goes down

red lips of mercury approach

the mist rises

the die is cast

the creed is done



these visions of bella donna

conquer my mind

my achilles is found

I claw my way out

of the memphis mobile

feeling blue



pill box hats

consume my dreams

the wind whispers la’ bella

while mercury vapours consume me

my time is pledged

the reaper awaits



the sad-eyed ballerina assassin

enters, riding

the 6th white horse of the apocalypse

as she drifts slowly

over the undulating lowlands



tears are falling from on high

the lips of a precious angel

delivering kisses like buttery wings

while storms roll in from afar

bringing that familiar morning smell

we oh so love



stoned and fractured

harried by the dozen and 35

the swan is lowered

to yonder depths

to rise again

à bientôt

© 2017 michael d emmerich

My Top 10 Bob Dylan Love Songs

My next nigh on impossible task (thanks to my Dylan twitter friends), is to select my best Bob Dylan love songs. As an introduction, let me say that Together Through Life (April 2009), in my humble opinion is his most romantic album. It also depends on which reviews you read, as many of the songs are open to diverse interpretations (but that is the way Bob rolls). The entire album is bluesy jaunt as he surveys the world and country, as he slowly  drives by; never giving up on love, even if it is a shared misery.

He croaks his way through sadness, disappointment and exhaustion, “with the blood of the land in his voice”. Its an unforced, emotionally strong album coming off the back of his renaissance trilogy of albums (Time Out Of Mind, Love And Theft and Modern Times). In his own words, from the album: “I wouldn’t change it even if I could. You know what they say: It’s all good.”

I have not taken any songs from my previous list – My Top 10 Bob Dylan Songs some of those possibly could have ended up here – (barring one in the Special Mentions list at the end). I have also not included any songs from Together Through Life.

Well here goes … in alphabetical order:

Brownsville Girl – Knocked Out Loaded (1986) – A wistful lyrical song of a lover from his distant past. Dylan speaks to a lover, presumably one gone years before, and muses that she reminds him of his current love – he says she has the same “dark rhythm in her soul”. An epic and touching homage to a past lost love.

I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight – John Wesley Harding (1968) – A simple sweet song for anybody to sing to their lover, even if it is only for one night 🙂 . Light the fire, uncork the red wine and lets get cosy.

If Not For You – New Morning (1970) – A beautiful, simple love ballad. For me the best version is Bob and George Harrison, live at the Concert for Bangladesh rehearsals (1971). Their interaction, body language, smiles and laughter is just so endearing. If you have not seen this video it is a must 🙂

Is Your Love in Vain – Street Legal (1978)Dylan asks, straight out, “Are you willing to risk it all or is your love in vain?” An emotional roller coaster song about the man himself? We can hear the pain, tiredness and weariness when he says, “All right, I’ll take a chance, I will fall in love with you”.

Lay Lady Lay – Nashville Skyline (1969) – Some trivia, it was originally written for the soundtrack of the movie Midnight Cowboy, but wasn’t submitted in time to be included in the finished film. I love the live version on the Hard Rain live in concertalbum.

Love Minus Zero/No Limit – Bringing It All Back Home (1965) – I enjoy the live version The Bootleg Series Vol. 5: Bob Dylan Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue  – The song is believed to be dedicated to his future wife Sara.

Precious Angel – Slow Train Coming (1979) – I very syrupy love song straight from the from the heart, its from Dylan’s religious period; there are some gems tucked away in those hidden years.

Shooting Star – Oh Mercy (1989) – Shooting stars, an analogy of religion or romance, I prefer the romance analogy. Love lost and still longed for, and then remembered. If you have not heard the MTV Unplugged reissue (1995) I urge you to download that version.

Wedding Song (Who loves you more?) – Planet Waves (1974)  One of Dylan’s, not quite lost songs from the Empire Burlesque recordings. The song is filled with loving sentiment, but there is an undercurrent of loss, and almost pleading; What’s lost is lost, “we can’t regain what went down in the flood” certainly suggests some “trouble in paradise”. But that’s why we love Bob, he always leaves us guessing.

When The Deal Goes Down – Modern Times (2006) – When I hear this song, I get the mental image of the movie; On Golden Pond, 2 elderly lovers, in their golden years, comfortable in each others company and silence; sharing their last days together, in peace and love.

Each invisible prayer is like a cloud in the air
Tomorrow keeps turning around
We live and we die, we know not why
But I’ll be with you when the deal goes down

Well Worth a  Mention:

Who Loves You More (1984)  – This is a bootleg, available on the Clean Cuts Bootleg – Who Loves You More. Click on the link, well worth a listen. Seemingly, Dylan is just pouring out random lines in relation to his love for the woman.

Mississippi – Love and Theft (2001) – The troubadours love song, the drifter, wanting his woman to stick with him in tough times, hoping for better days. There are a few other interpretations, one being a political commentary of a changing country.

Stick with me baby, stick with me anyhow
Things should start to get interesting right about now
So give me your hand and say you’ll be mine

My Top 10 Bob Dylan Songs

I have set myself an impossible task – choosing my 10 best Dylan songs – I still feel guilty for the 100 or so I have left off the list 🙂  They are in no particular order, as that would be nigh on impossible! My favourite album happens to be Nashville Skyline or is it Modern Times, or wait maybe Tempest, but wait there’s also Another Side of  …. so I have omitted songs from Nashville Skyline from this list. The songs that do not have a specific reference or reason are just here coz, they mean so many things to me… in so many situations. I have used many of these songs for inspiration, solace or just contemplation. Those who follow my poetry might pick up some hints of Dylan and others in my writings … 🙂

In alphabetical order:

Girl From the North Country – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963) – I know this is also on Nashville Skyline, but it was played here first, so there …

I Feel a Change Comin’ on – Together Through Life (2009) – just listen to the lyrics, and I dare you not be moved to contemplate life ….

I Want You – Blonde on Blonde (1966) – was on my wedding playlist, so it just has to be here 🙂

Knockin’ on Heavens Door – Pat Garret and Billy the Kid (1973) – A powerful poignant song, about life coming to an end …. such simple but gut wrenching lyrics.

Make you Feel My Love – Time out of Mine (1997) – this song is very close to me, has been for many years. I was listening to this song (and 2 others) when I wrote my last poem – Feel Our Love

Masters of War –  The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963). For me this is his greatest and angriest protest song of all time, second only to Pay in Blood, Tempest.

Mississippi – Love and Theft  (2001) – an underrated classic drifters Dylan song … just take a listen and ramble along with our man Bobby

Not Dark Yet – Time out of Mine (1997) – these lyrics .. man they just get to me, sad, dark, but with a sliver of hope

One More Cup of Coffee – Desire (1976) – a special sentimental favourite of mine and my wife. Its off (one of) her favourite Dylan albums, and she always asks me before I leave home … One more cup of Coffee?

Tempest – Tempest (2014) – This song all of 15 minutes, and still gives me goosebumps and brings a tear to my ear, so powerful, visual, visceral … and sad.

Thunder on the Mountain – Modern Times (2006) – I love the feel and vibe of Modern Times, and Thunder on the Mountain for me encapsulates the feel (Spirit on the Water was a close second)

When the Night Comes Falling From the Sky – Empire Burlesque (1985) – from an underrated album but with a few hidden gems, this being one of them.

Okay for those who counted there are 12 … not 10 .. lets call it a Dylan dozen 🙂

If you enjoyed this post pop over and read:

Learning from Creative People – Bob Dylan and Bob Dylan and His Many Muses