On Andrew Loog Oldham’s show on SIRIUS-XM Underground Garage, there is a segment called “Take Five” where listeners send in a list of five songs that mean a great deal to them, or helped shape them in some way. I know for some people this idea is ridiculous – that any song could have any kind of lasting effect or provoke some kind of real change. But songs are just words put to music, and words come into our minds and hearts in many different ways. Other people’s words are incorporated into how we view the world, whether we are conscious of it or not.

As I sat in the sun this afternoon, listening, I began to think about it. There have been so many, many, many songs over the years that I have loved passionately, completely, giddily. There are many that I associate with certain time periods or events in my life, and many that evoke powerful emotions in me. But I started to hone in on the idea of songs that actually changed the way I thought about things, or brought out something in me that I wasn’t able to quite articulate. Those, are few. Here are five:

1. The Kinks: A Well Respected Man

I was very little when I first heard this song, but it absolutely got my attention. Its repetitive and simple melody appealed to my nursery ears. I did not catch all the words until years later, and did not fully understand the character that Ray Davies laid out then, but it was the first song I can remember hearing that was funny and sarcastic and a clear put-down of its protagonist. Something was up out there in the big adult world, said the Kinks, and Davies’ very dry and detailed way of seeing started to open my eyes, while making me smile at the same time.

“And his mother goes to meetings,
While his father pulls the maid,
And she stirs the tea with councilors,
While discussing foreign trade,
And she passes looks, as well as bills
At every suave young man

And he’s oh, so good,
And he’s oh, so fine,
And he’s oh, so healthy,
In his body and his mind.
He’s a well respected man about town,
Doing the best things so conservatively.”

2. The Rolling Stones: Mother’s Little Helper

For me, the companion piece to “A Well Respected Man.” The woman in this song could be the well-respected man’s mother or wife, and was so utterly unlike my own Betty Crocker mom. I was fascinated by her dissolution and desperation . Busy, yet profoundly bored. Unappreciated, aging, and drugged is no way to go through life, ma’am, I thought. And I vowed never to be her.

“What a drag it is getting old
Kids are different today,
I hear ev’ry mother say
Mother needs something today to calm her down
And though she’s not really ill
There’s a little yellow pill
She goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day

Doctor please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old.”

3. Elvis Costello: “Radio Radio”

Anyone who grew up in the heyday of AM radio knows what I am talking about when I say that radio broke my heart. As it slipped into formulaic bilge, smooth-talking DJs droning on while playing the middle-of-the-road Top 20 garbage rock they were told to play by some cash-happy corporation robots, all the spontaneity and fun and life and uniqueness was shoved out of MY RADIO, and it was crushing. It is always particularly wrenching to have something wonderful in your hands, and then have it taken away. Elvis Costello knew how I felt, and as I watched him play this song live on SNL, an infamous and wonderful moment in rock n’ roll, I knew I wasn’t alone.

“I was tuning in the shine on the light night dial
doing anything my radio advised
with every one of those late night stations
playing songs bringing tears to my eyes
I was seriously thinking about hiding the receiver
when the switch broke 'cause it's old
They're saying things that I can hardly believe.
They really think we're getting out of control.

Radio is a sound salvation
Radio is cleaning up the nation
They say you better listen to the voice of reason
But they don't give you any choice
'cause they think that it's treason.
So you had better do as you are told.
You better listen to the radio.

I wanna bite the hand that feeds me.
I wanna bite that hand so badly.
I want to make them wish they'd never seen me.

Some of my friends sit around every evening
and they worry about the times ahead
But everybody else is overwhelmed by indifference
and the promise of an early bed
You either shut up or get cut out;
they don't wanna hear about it.
It's only inches on the reel-to-reel.
And the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools
tryin' to anaesthetise the way that you feel.”

4. David Bowie: “Heroes”

At this point in Bowie’s career, I was a fan, if a slightly reluctant one. He was so talented and so interesting, but at the same time I found him cold, and I wondered if he was as aloof and alien as the odd characters he became in his performances. “Heroes” changed my mind about him and his depth and heart, and the very idea of what was heroic to me. I had never heard anything that was so filled with such aching sadness and hopelessness, yet so brave and beautiful. The song brought to me the idea that heroism often comes down to the smallest actions of people, and is often unknown to the world.

I wish you could swim
Like the dolphins
Like dolphins can swim
Though nothing
Will keep us together
We can beat them
For ever and ever
Oh we can be Heroes
Just for one day

I will be king
And you
You will be queen
Though nothing
Will drive them away
We can be Heroes
Just for one day
We can be us
Just for one day

I can remember
By the wall
And the guns
Shot above our heads
And we kissed
As though nothing could fall
And the shame
Was on the other side
Oh we can beat them
For ever and ever
Then we can be Heroes
Just for one day.”

5. Oasis: Rock n’ Roll Star

Something that I know now that I didn’t know when I was younger is that everyone wastes far far too much time worrying about what other people think. I don’t have very many regrets in my life, but this is one – that I let worry and fear and the idea that I would be judged and found lacking stop me from doing the things I truly wanted to do. When I heard this song, I smiled over the way Noel Gallagher was able to capture that place between dreaming and becoming, and how sometimes you just have to say to the world, screw you, tonight I’m a rock n’ roll star.

“I live my life for the stars that shine
People say it's just a waste of time
When they said I should feed my head
That to me was just a day in bed
I'll take my car and I drive real far
You’re not concerned about the way we are
In my mind my dreams are real
Now you’re concerned about the way I feel

Tonight I'm a rock 'n' roll star
Tonight I'm a rock 'n' roll star
Tonight I'm a rock 'n' roll star

You’re not down with who I am
Look at you now, you’re all in my hands tonight

Tonight I'm a rock 'n' roll star
Tonight I'm a rock 'n' roll star
Tonight I'm a rock 'n' roll star.”

Thank you, Rock Stars.