Pros: Funny and well-written, especially for a book of this type
Cons: Snootier book types will never know the pleasure of it
The Bottom Line: It's a list! You like lists!
I think my favorite thing about Touch Me, I'm Sick by Tom Reynolds is he has the courage to take The Beatles to task for something. I've been long sick of the experts fawning over The Beatles, though that may be because they broke into the States 16 or 17 years before I was born, broke up ten years before I was born, and their rhythm guitarist was dead just a little over six months before I was born. I don't HATE The Beatles, mind you, I'm only sick of them. So when Tom Reynolds included their song Run for Your Life in his list of the world's 52 creepiest love songs, I breathed a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, Reynolds's argument for it being one of the creepiest is one of the thinnest in the book and not the all-out pounding I had hoped for. And the already-weak argument is marred by a format - specific to the chapter devoted to it - which involves him having a conversation with a particularly wacked Beatles scholar.
Touch Me, I'm Sick by Tom Reynolds is a compilation of the songs which Tom Reynolds thinks are the 52 creepiest love songs ever recorded. It's a simple idea which makes for great light reading: Reynolds names a song and devotes a short four or five pages telling us why it made his short list. The chapters are given a proper introduction then divided into sections describing the song and telling us why its creepy. At the end of the book he presents us with the master list, giving us the final order from least creepy to most creepy. Run for Your Life is ranked at 38, below suck odd lovesick ballads as Stan by Eminem (6), Alive by Pearl Jam (15), and the immortal stalker anthem Every Breath You Take, which only makes the tenth spot. The Sophie B. Hawkins song Don't Stop Swaying tops the shutter-closing love list, while John Mayer's Your Body is a Wonderland holds up the rest at 52.
I know this doesn't sound like a piece of exciting literature or historical non-fiction, but it has a couple of things going for it: First of all, Tom Reynolds is a very funny and verbose writer. One could easily make the argument that books of this type are far below his talent. If Charles Dickens or Mark Twain decided to write books of this type, I can't imagine them being that much different, and I mean that seriously. Second of all, music is clearly the first love for Reynolds and so he clearly knows what he is talking about. When I write music reviews, I can only describe what I hear to the best of my musical inability and tell you why I did or didn't like it. In Touch Me, I'm Sick, Reynolds talks about music in depth about everything from synthesizers to fretless bass.
Reynolds writes Touch Me, I'm Sick with an impressive ear for objectivity. He notes repeatedly that a song doesn't have to be bad in order to be creepy. He likes Every Breath You Take and praises the ability of guitarist Andy Summers to play a very complicated set of guitar chords without choking. On the other hand, he bashes a lot of songs which warrant bashing: Lose Control by Kevin Federline, Jenny from the Block by Jennifer Lopez, and (You're) Having My Baby by Paul Anka, a song which is so tough to find that Reynolds had to recall it from memory rather an buy, download, or pirate it.
The list itself runs an impressive gamut. There are well-known tunes in here and rare songs, from hit singles to the most obscure album fillers. Among the songs making the cut are Angels Fu*k by a band called Jack Off Jill, Bob Carlisle's insufferable hit Butterfly Kisses, Marry Me (Heirate Mach) by German metal outfit Rammstein, Creep by Radiohead, and Come to My Window by Melissa Etheridge. Touch Me, I'm Sick is divided into sections based on just what kind of love songs we're talking about. There are sections for the standard songs about people being obsessed, just hating someone else after a bad breakup, artists' odes to themselves, tributes to peoples' love for cadavers (Reynolds says there are more of them than we probably think), and songs about masturbation and oral sex. The final chapter is the very short list of those perfectly creepy songs which no one wants to hear. Reynolds put thought into this. He reminds us just how many kinds of love there are.
There's not much more to say about Touch Me, I'm Sick. Books of this nature are strictly airline nuggets or bathroom readers, or both. You grab them cheap, read them while crossing the Atlantic, then put them aside never to think of them again. But Touch Me, I'm Sick may be the War and Peace of airline nuggets. It may be a silly idea, but Reynolds, who also wrote a similar book about depressing songs called I Hate Myself and Want to Die, makes your plane ride memorable and fun enough to make you forget how much you hate to fly.
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