3:06 p.m. - February 27, 2006
Here are 20 tunes floating around my iPod today. All of these are slated for my big ol’ spring / summer mix CD events coming soon to a dozen mailboxes around the world. (Soon, of course, being relative, as my definition of soon is more of a traditional version, back when people used to say, “I reckon that we’ll ride for a while, then camp out over yonder,” instead of “dammit, email me the document yesterday!”)
So here we go.
1. J. P. P. McStep B. Blues – Jefferson Airplane. This is a Skip Spence (ex-Airplane drummer turned Moby Grape guitarist turned acid casualty #1 – the American Syd Barrett) tune that has its genesis in the original version of the Airplane, when Signe Anderson was the female counterpart to Marty Balin. But this wasn’t recorded until Grace Slick joined the band (I think, since it was an outtake from Surrealistic Pillow, but anyway, it’s a neat little folky tune that shows the Airplane as they were originally, not some freaky drugged-out psychedelic mess of a band that released a bunch of halfway listenable albums in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The harmonies are great, Jack Cassidy’s bass line lopes right along, and sure the lyrics are a bit hippy-dippy (‘and you know the sands of time are just made of sand’), but it’s a good hippy-dippy.
2. White Girl – X. Back in the day, John Doe and Exene Cervenka were the power couple of punk rock – making love with their voices on every record. This is one of the classics of that genre, though it’s not hardcore punk (not anywhere near Black Flag, Fear, or the Circle Jerks). It’s punk in spirit, which is cool enough, but I think the ‘punk rock’ label hurt their general acceptance back in the day. Billy Zoom was the epitome of cool, though, playing his sparkly Gretsch in a neo-rockabilly motif like no ones’ business.
3. 21 – Posies. From their rarities collection At Least, At Last, this is an outtake from the classic Posies era (I believe it was left off of Dear 23). A great melody, crunchy guitars, and a busy bass line. The harmonies are a little thin, but it’s a demo, not an actual recording. But it’s still damn good.
4. Form Another Stone – Camper Van Beethoven. I put this on the list because of the mega-swirling guitars and it’d fit with other neo-and-not-so-neo psychedelic stuff. This is from their early-anything-goes era (Camper Van Beethoven II and III, in case you care. I found the lyrics on line, and my gosh, someone really had to listen closely to transcribe it, because the effects and swirls make it hard to make them out.
5. Look Out Cleveland – The Band. Geez, for a while they were tbe best band going on at the time, and that’s no pun. They had the chops, the soul and the songwriting. Robbie Robertson was just a master at songs like this, and this may be one of those lesser-known songs in their canon. When he and they were on, they were ON.
6. There Aint’ S*** On TV Tonight – The Minutemen. The late, great Minutemen. For 1:34, D. Boon philosophically muses the words that Mike Watt and George Hurley wrote against a sympathetic and evocative arrangement, with spare guitar, as gentle as Hurley could play on drums, and Watt’s snaking bass line. Everytime I hear them, I weep as Boon and the band were snuffed out well before their time.
7. N. W. O. – Ministry. I wasn’t all that interested in most of the industrial music, because for the most part it made my head hurt (see the Revolting Cocks, for one) but Ministry at times made some compelling, interesting music, when they weren’t all smacked out or pretentious. So while I love this song, I really can’t recommend their catalog to anyone who is curious. In fact, even though it’s sacrilege, I really like “Revenge” from way back when.
8. Down On the Street – The Stooges. Iggy Pop mewls, howls and growls in his inimitable skuzzy way, while the Asheton brothers and Dave Alexander make a loud, unholy racket behind him. This is from Fun House, which would scare people in 2006, much less 1970, when it was released. Listening to this stuff makes me think all the more that pikers like G. G. Allin were just amateurs.
9. Cold Turkey – John Lennon. And speaking of scary, listening to someone go through heroin withdrawal on record really does put a chill in your coffee. I can see why McCartney balked at releasing it, but this is a record McCartney would never, ever do.
10. Over And Over – Dave Clark Five. What a change of pace from the previous records on the list. A classic slice of British Invasion pop, with a band that was surprisingly less vapid than many of the time. The bass lines of the DC5 have always been firm and powerful and LOW, which makes them very unique for the era. They wrote some originals, but covers like this were just as good. I think almost every band at the time did this one.
11. Blast Off – The Stray Cats. This was well after their ‘hit’ era, when they had low expectations but delivered some decent records. I saw them open up for Stevie Ray Vaughan, and they really surprised me on how well they came off live. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Brian Setzer is a guitar genius. Now, if only someone could get me “The Knife Feels Like Justice”, then I’d be complete.
12. Wichita – The Jayhawks. No, the Jayhawks aren’t from Kansas, and my wife was really fooled when she heard this song about her hometown. “Are you sure,” she said, “because why would they name themselves that if they weren’t from Kansas, and also sing about Wichita?” I just said that’s rock and roll, baby.
13. Getting Better – The Beatles. This is always one of my favorite, and least heard, Beatles’ song. John adds just the right amount of acridity to Paul’s sunshine and blue skies. What I really like is the arrangement – the ringing guitars, the mysterious sitar in the middle, the efficient and chiming bass line, and the harmonies. It’s almost perfection! (I’m a tough grader, though.)
14. King Of All the World – The Old 97’s. This is the opening cut on their last-gasp for stardom record Satellite Rides, which despite that reservation is a pretty darn good rock-and-roll record. It’s not that alt-country, but it’s full of good songs and good hooks, but nothing about it is great, and I think that was the difference in becoming a hit and becoming just a good band that no one paid much attention to.
15. Rev It Up & Go – The Stray Cats. Ok, there are 345 songs currently in this playlist for consideration, and go figure, this spit up two Stray Cats’ songs within five songs of each other. The interesting thing about this one is the constant modulation after each of the verses – that makes it unique and thrilling all the same.
16. She Don’t Use Jelly – The Flaming Lips. Way back in the day, because I subscribed to “Option” magazine and also ordered mail-order from Insomnia Records, I was on a mailing list and some record companies sent me free samplers of tunes once in a while, and this was on one of those freebies. Damned if for whatever reason that it became a semi-demi-quasi hit. It IS catchy and all, but it’s way out of left field. Of course, Ween was too, and everyone knows that damn “Push Th’ Little Daisies” song, too.
17. Long Neck Bottles – Captain Beefheart. This is an almost normal (heh) song from Captain Beefheart. It’s very much rooted in a blues tradition, from his roots, and is a pretty straightforward take on that. The band’s chops are spotless, though, and they really pull it off with great ease. The Captain blows a mean harp, and the lyrics are fun, too. “I don’t like to talk about my women / but this one could sure hold her long neck bottle beer down.” A woman after my own heart, that one!
18. I’m Housin’ – Rage Against The Machine. I thought they died before their time, but after hearing Audioslave (and being less than totally whelmed, though admittedly my expectations may have been way too high – since Soundgarden and RATM were so dang good) and the silence from Zach de la Rocha, perhaps it WAS their time to go. This is from their covers album, and as usual, it rocks. And as usual, de la Rocha can go over the top once in a while, but not on this one. I think I need to check out EPMD’s original. I’m very weak in classic hip-hop, and to be honest, I need to change that – I can’t be a scared white boy anymore.
19. Seether – Veruca Salt. I’m not surprised they disintegrated. Usually, bands with two competing songwriters (not collaborators) tend to have short shelf lives because everyone is trying to get their songs on the record, especially when one of them wrote the better songs for the most part (Louise Post, who penned “All Hail Me” and “Shutterbug”) but the other (Nina Gordon) wrote the hits, like this one.
20. Jenny Take A Ride – Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. Ok, how can you NOT get up out of your chair and dance when this song comes on? You have to be comatose, and even then I bet your toes would wiggle. The odd thing is that this only hit #10 on the charts, but go figure, I suppose.
Well, there you have it. Have I whet your appetites for more tuneage yet? It’s quite an eclectic mix I turned out there if I do say so myself. Well, friends and neighbors, just keep the music in you, because it’ll make you happy. Look ma, no ulcers!