Songs to Sit In Bed and Smoke Cigarettes to

taken from the San Francisco Sentinel

Lately I’ve been watching HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, and at this moment I don’t believe there is anything cooler than seeing Enoch “Nucky” Thompson unload the magazine of a Tommy gun into a grandfather clock, turn and explain to the Irish Cause that he wants whiskey for guns, and then slide a Lucky Strike in between his lips and slowly take a drag. Like most shows on HBO, it involves swearing, nudity, and drug use–the good stuff–but what separates it from most of the other shows currently on the network, is that its components also include cigarettes in every scene and an awesome soundtrack. With jazz music and cigarettes being an integral part of American culture during the early twentieth century, it got me to thinking of the current relationship between the two: are people thinking of particular songs while they’re smoking, and are there songs that are making people thinking of lighting up?

While a good portion of scenes from Boardwalk show the characters reveling with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of bourbon in the other, all while some hot-jazz is being played from the bandstand at a night club, I view the combination of cigarettes and music from a sentimental perspective. I picture relaxing in a dim club, with the blue haze of smoke lingering in front of my eyes, as a trumpeter leads his group slowly through a tune.This doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t smoke to upbeat music, but a ballad definitely invites smoking and gives the listener more room to do so. Listening to the quick, convoluted improvisation of someone like John Coltrane in songs such as “Countdown,” one can become lost within the sheets of sound emanating from the speakers, and later find that his or her cigarette has burned down to their fingers. However, Coltrane knew when it was dirty-nasty time, and more often than not he played sentimental tunes, like “I’m Old Fashioned.”

But regardless of who plays what in whatever style, I like to sit in bed a lot, and when I sit in bed I enjoy listening to music, and the type of music that satisfies my taste for when I’m sitting in the dark are medium to slow-tempo ballads–ones that can potentially get down and dirty. These songs often make me feel like going to the nearest corner store, buying a pack of cigarettes, and smoking them all in one sitting.

From these medium to slow-tempo ballads, here’s what I believe would make a good list of top songs to sit in bed and smoke cigarettes to:

1. “For All We Know” by the Nat King Cole Trio

2. “‘Round Midnight” by the (first) Miles Davis Quintet

3. “Bethena” by Scott Joplin

4. “I’ll See You In My Dreams” by Cliff Edwards

5. “Just a Gigolo” by Thelonious Monk

I’d be interested in knowing some other people’s choices for which songs make them want to light up a bogie, in any musical style. Comment your thoughts.

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5 comments
  1. jrdacula said:

    While I don’t smoke, the fact that I am a huge fan of classic television, notably “I Love Lucy,” makes me wish I did sometimes. The song “Forever Darling” by Desi Arnaz would probably be a song I’d light up to, as well as the Abbey Road version of Damien Rice’s “Rootless Tree.” Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” and John Legend’s “Ordinary People” would also be “light up a bogie” songs for me.

  2. tffuhrer said:

    It is pretty obvious that smoking and music sort of go hand in hand. I guess it must have something to do with the fact that both listening to music and smoking are things people do to soothe themselves. As a smoker myself, I know just how you feel when you say there are just these certain songs that just make you want to light up. For me though personally I enjoy listening to faster paced music which is really not doing my lungs any favors because I tend to inhale to the beat of the bass.

  3. Like Jonathan, I don’t smoke but I think I know what you’re going for here. I love Miles, so I’d go for the entirety of Sketches of Spain, in particular the first cut.

    Check it out.

  4. I love Boardwalk Empire! I understand where you are coming from in this post. My views on smoking go back and forth (I used to absolutely hate it and now in certain situations, usually when I’m drunk or stressed out, I love it,) but I every time I watch the show and see them smoking while listening to some kind of jazz I want to be in that moment. It just seems so enticing and makes me want to be taken back to that era and to be around the original jazz music, because personally I don’t think that today’s jazz lives up to the old stuff.

  5. As far as smoking is concerned, I like to enjoy the occasional cigar, and I definitely agree that proper music enhances the experience. It seems that there is a general consensus that the ideal smoking music produces a feeling of nostalgia, reminiscent of a time when combining the two was classy. Your selection of original jazz tunes provided perfect examples. For me, listening to any music suggestive of Cuba (especially the Buena Vista Social Club) always makes me want a cigar, and vice versa.

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