“Star of Bethlehem,” Neil Young
I know Neil Young wasn’t singing about Bethlehem, PA, when he wrote this song. He probably wouldn’t understand why I’d enter a haggis-eating contest either. But the melody, so spare, so catchy, stuck in my ear throughout our trip. Even as I got ready to tie up my pig stomach.
“I Feel Alright,” Steve Earle
This is the ultimate driving song, which we needed during a roadwork-induced 10-hour drive from New York City to Pittsburgh. (Bless the episode’s director, Josh, for letting me sleep through much of it.) The propulsive rhythm, the twangcore guitar, and Earle’s bad-ass drawl … it’s all part of the energy.
“Shore Leave,” Tom Waits
In college, my then-girlfriend’s family home was near a graveyard. I’d run endless loops through there as it got dark, listening to “Swordfishtrombones.” So in Pittsburgh, when I found my only real safe run would also be in a foggy graveyard, this song fell into heavy rotation.
“Sara Smile,” Hall & Oates
A couple years ago, while presenting a film at the Philadelphia Film Festival, I showered in the recording studio building either previously or currently occupied by Philadelphia International Records. All I know is that as I was toweling off I encountered a gold, Teddy Pendergrass disc looking down on me.
“Shut ‘Em Down,” Public Enemy
A bunch of fortysomethings schooled in PE, Run DMC and De La Soul. This is particularly true of our director of photography, Jeff Stitzel, who can churn out “Rapper’s Delight” like he’s chewing a piece of gum.