Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Jack's Top 50

The Top 100 came about after a late night conversation between my good friend Jack and I. I see or talk to Jack from time to time. Sometimes often, sometimes never (we live in different cities). One thing never changes, we'll immediately start discussing nonsense ... like this. Jack is also the funniest guy i've ever met (all apologies to Xmastime).

I met Jack in 1992 a week after I moved to NYC. It was one of those set-ups that record geeks are always getting. “You gotta meet this guy”. “Hey, this is Jack” turned into a 3 hour conversation. Maybe it was the Meat Puppets t-shirt. Jack has the most ridiculously amazing music collection I have ever seen (all apologies to Drew—I was pretty drunk the only time I saw yours, and I kinda pretend I was dreaming). I’ll put it this way, he has every record worth owning on the planet (with the exception of "The White Album", which he hates and I love, but makes me like him even more). There's always an amazing moment at any party Jack throws when someone asks, 'you've got 4 billion records, but you don't have ____' (drag from a smoke and blank stare from Jack). He also has the complete Shaq discography, as well as the best reason for having it—“he’s the only rapper who can back up what he raps about”. Nuf sed.

Here's his list and notes. Enjoy.

1) Walk Away Renee (The Left Banke)
2) Louie Louie (The Kingsmen)
3) I Want to Hold Your Hand (The Beatles)
4) Sweet Jane (full length version) (Velvet Underground)
5) Maybellene (Chuck Berry)
6) I Want You Back (Jackson 5)
7) So Long, Marianne (Leonard Cohen)
8) Summertime Blues (Eddie Cochran)
9) Rise Above (Black Flag)
10) Society’s Child (Janis Ian)
11) Meet on the Ledge (Fairport Convention)
12) White Riot (The Clash)
13) The Stars of Track and Field (Belle and Sebastian)
14) O-o-h Child (The 5 Stairsteps)
15) Fortunate Son (CCR)
16) I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend (Ramones)
17) Fight the Power (soundtrack version) (Public Enemy)
18) Good Vibrations (Beach Boys)
19) No Sleep Till Brooklyn (Beastie Boys)
20) Till the End of the Day (The Kinks)
21) Cigarette (The Smithereens)
22) Reach out in the Darkness (Friend and Lover)
23) Carnival of Sorts (Boxcars) (REM)
24) I Know a Place (Petula Clark)
25) The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This (Love)
26) He War (Cat Power)
27) The Witch (The Sonics)
28) The Girl Can’t Help It (Little Richard)
29) She Loves You (Beatles)
30) I Feel Love (Donna Summer)
31) Caribou (The Pixies)
32) Gimme Shelter (Rolling Stones)
33) Greetings to the New Brunette (Billy Bragg)
34) I Can’t Explain (The Who)
35) Deceptacon (Le Tigre)
36) In the Still of the Night (The Five Satins)
37) Sunday Morning (Velvet Underground)
38) Thunder Road (Bruce Springsteen)
39) Touch Me, I’m Sick (Mudhoney)
40) No Matter What (Badfinger)
41) I Found that Essence Rare (Gang of Four)
42) Teenager in Love (Dion and the Belmonts)
43) Banned in D.C. (Bad Brains)
44) Room with a View (Let's Active)
45) Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry)
46) Checkin’ it Out (The Donnas)
47) Bo Diddley (Bo Diddley)
48) Right Back Where We Started From (Maxine Nightingale)
49) Friday On My Mind (The Easybeats)
50) She’s Lost Control (Joy Division)

Last 10 songs to be cut from rough list of several hundred songs:

“Lady Marmalade” (Labelle)
“In My Life” (The Beatles)
“Love Cats” (The Cure)
“Lost Johnny” (the Motorhead version)
“Kerosene” (Big Black)
“Mystery Train” (Elvis Presley)
“Why” (Dirty Wurds)
“Let’s Have a War” (Fear)
“Be-Bop-A-Lula” (Gene Vincent)
“Let’s Have a Party” (Wanda Jackson)

Bands/Musicians with most songs on rough list:
The Beatles with 9 (2 got in)
The Kinks with 5 (1 got in)
Bob Dylan with 4 (0 got in)
The Replacements with 4 (0 got in)

Number of bands/musicians on my final list of 50 that Peter Zaremba
mentions in “American Beat ‘84” - 7

Number that John Cougar Mellencamp mentions in “R.O.C.K. in the
U.S.A. (A Salute to ‘60s Rock)” - 0

Number that Le Tigre mention in “Hot Topic” - 0

Thoughts on Songs:

“Walk Away Renee”
My choice for the best song of the pop era. My friend Will pointed out to me one of the more significant aspects of this song (aside from the fact that it was written by a minor). He said that the song starts in what would appear to be its middle and that the first word is “and”. It is almost as if the song need not be introduced to the listener. Once it’s on, it’s on, and everything that you were doing prior is instantly unimportant.

The not-quite-conventional beginning becomes an abrupt ending in under 3 short and not wholly satisfying minutes, leaving the listener with the same covetous nature which inspired the song.

“Louie Louie”
My favorite version of the Richard Berry song is the popular one. Years ago, I vowed never to purchase it on CD, tape or even vinyl. I felt that to intentionally play the song on a stereo would be to ruin it; it had to be happened upon via the radio in order for it to work.

Around 1997 I bought a Kingsmen compilation from a bargain bin, thus breaking my rule. (I had the Sceptre box set, but that was a gift so it didn’t count). I went home to put on my new Kingsmen CD, unenthusiastically anticipating track 1 (of course it’s going to be Louie Louie). However, I heard something else! In an amazing act of providence, the wrong music had been pressed on the disc. Instead of 10 Kingsmen songs on the Kingsmen comp., there were 10 Willie Nelson songs. I had been granted a reprieve! A year later, the Nuggets box came out and that was that.

“Society’s Child”
Broadside has another version of this song called “Baby, I’ve Been Thinking”. It’s credited to Blind Girl Grunt. While Janis Ian didn’t have Blind Boy Grunt’s staying power or influence, she did have a more appealing voice. In addition, I don’t think Bob Dylan could ever cause as much hoopla. Ian received numerous death threats for this song and a radio station was allegedly burnt to the ground for playing it. I don’t think that was ever confirmed, however.

What I find most impressive in this song is the teenager’s knowledge of her own complicity. The pronouns used to identify those not ready for the possibility of miscegenation shift from “She” to “They” to “I”. At the end of the song, the singer is the person saying that this is not going to happen.

“O-o-h Child”
Occasionally I run into someone who has seen Over the Edge. They invariably mention Cheap Trick’s “Surrender”. Then I say something along the lines of “and there’s also a cover of ‘o-o-h child’ at the end”. That’s usually when the conversation switches to something else.

“Fight the Power”
The first time I saw Rosie Perez was in the summer of 1989. I left work early to see the new Spike Lee movie at The Nickelodeon in Boston. When the opening credits started, I was simultaneously asking myself “who is that?” and “what is this?”. I had heard PE before, but only from a roommate’s tape. He was somebody whom I never bothered to borrow records from so I probably didn’t pay much attention. Later, I got back to my apartment and rounded up friends to see the movie again the next day. I must have seen it 4 or 5 times that summer with different people. After each viewing, the person I was with would always ask me what I thought of the ending, while I would always ask them what they thought of the beginning.

About a year ago, a couple of friends asked me if I would share the expenses to book Pat DiNizio to play at a private home. It was roughly $500 each, but I agreed to it because of this song. The whole show was very good, but I would break it down as follows: Seeing Pat DiNizio play a good show is probably worth about $25. Seeing Pat DiNizio play a good show that includes “Cigarette” is definitely worth $500.

“The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This”
A while back, I had a discussion with my friend Drew about what was the best song on Forever Changes, which is possibly his favorite LP. I chose the conventional pick, “Alone Again Or” and he chose the one with the long title that starts “Maybe the People…” and keeps going.

The next day I played the record in its entirety, something I hadn’t done in years. I decided that we’re both wrong. After the record was over, I played this one again several times. I got to see Love in the fall of 2004 during Game 2 of the series that would eventually become the greatest comeback in the history of sports. I left a few times to check the score. Eventually, The Zombies/Argent came on so I could properly watch the rest of the game.

“Sunday Morning”
I can’t think of an opening track that prepares the listener for the rest of the album less than this one does. While the majority of the remaining tracks are vile and sordid, “Sunday Morning” could easily fit on a Sesame Street soundtrack or any record by The Gentle Waves. This makes Belle and Sebastian sound like Chavo-era Black Flag.

“Touch Me, I’m Sick”
Sweaty, cheesy and wholly inappropriate, this was one of the few singles from that label/era that actually sounded dirty. This song is the aural equivalent of being on a crowded subway when you really don’t want to be. The opening riff sounds like amplified farts.

“Banned in D.C.”
One of the ways that Minor Threat, Black Flag and Bad Brains differentiated themselves from most hardcore (aside from musicianship, songwriting ability and/or work ethic) was their ability to change tempo within a song. This was made all the more difficult by the fact that most of these songs were over in a minute or so. Usually, after several seconds, there would be a return to the previous breakneck pace. This one, however, remains at the slower tempo for its remainder and that last 30 or 40 seconds is probably the best 30 or 40 seconds of East Coast hardcore.

“Room with a View”
In the last handful of years, I’ve gotten old and therefore have ended up at several reunion shows ranging from The Soft Boys to The Stooges to Camper Van Beethoven. The shows were all good, but the reunion I want to see is not The Replacements, Screaming Trees or even Husker Du. I want to see the original Let’s Active trio reform. Ignored by many avid pop fans (even by a lot of Big Star And Badfinger fans), their 1984 release, Cypress, was one of the best LPs of the 1980s. This song was from the EP that preceded it.

“Checkin’ it Out”
Possibly the best teen trash/jailbait anthem ever, it’s essentially a 3-minute version of Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, or the song that The Runaways forgot to write.

“She’s Lost Control”
My friend James had Unknown Pleasures and we would listen to it in these tiny 12’ by 15’ dorm rooms with concrete walls. The rooms were ideal as they gave the impression that you were in the hospital, or more specifically, in quarantine. Joy Division always sounded like a virus to me, or a slightly more melodic Emergency Broadcast System transmission. Upon hearing them, my first thoughts were “how do I get to safety?”

This song, like all their others, makes me seal the apartment. I then prepare for the inevitable. Do I have enough cigarettes? Do I have enough food? What if someone decides to come over? Do I dare let them in?

You never hear Joy Division at parties because there are people at parties and they are usually hoping to have a good time. And I’ve never in my life heard them when I was outdoors. They need to be listened to while indoors even more so than early 60s Beach Boys need to be listened to while outdoors. This is because when you’re listening to Joy Division, you’re not really listening to music so much as you are hiding.

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