The point here isn’t to purge my soul of my truant past as much as to establish my bona fides as a longtime Letterman fan. Late Night With David Letterman was our talk show. Johnny Carson was for the grown-ups, but Dave was for the kids — especially the smart ass kids.
I wanted to send Dave off right. My first draft was a rambling, memoir-like piece about what it was like growing up with Letterman, interspersed with musical clips. It didn’t take long to figure out that the music was the star and my memoir bits were pretty boring.
So I started again from scratch, reviewing the synopses of all 6,000+ Letterman episodes with the grandiose idea of putting together some kind of “alt-indie on Letterman” guide. That was crazy talk — too many great bands appeared on his shows over 30+ years.
I finally settled on one great musical appearance per year, going all the way back to Late Night’s debut episode in 1982. Your list of favorites will differ (“Pearl Jam? How could you exclude Pearl Jam?”), but I’d listen to this playlist all day long.