Monday, January 08, 2007

Top 100 (Songs 80-71)

This is another in a continuing series on my favorite songs this year. I know that none so far actually were released this year, but, hey...nobody's perfect.

80. Strangers When We Meet (3:47)-The Smithereens, Especially for You, (1986)-A workingman’s power-pop group from New York who liked to wear tight jeans and look eighties faux-tough in leather motorcycle jackets. Not really in the same league as 20/20, The Beat, or The Nerves, but Strangers When We Meet, is a rather lyrically dense song about infidelity that has a bittersweet, novelistic quality that those other bands just could not muster. The Smithereens were a very soft-edged and un-cool kind of band, but in a sweet and guileless way, like Marshall Crenshaw or The Toms.

79. Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight (2:41) Fleetwood Mac as Earl Vince & The Valiants (1969), B-Side to Man of the World Single on Immediate Records-This song is a special case because has made a real monkey out of me. I have to go back a bit. About eight months ago I was flipping through the used compact discs at Rasputin Records, and I came across a few disassociated discs from the Immediate Records Singles Collection, of which I only purchased Volume 1. It had The Small Faces, Vashti Bunyan, Nico, P.P. Arnold, The Poets, The McCoys, Fleetwood Mac, and others. The thing is though; I really don’t like Fleetwood Mac. Honestly. OK, it’s true, I do have a soft spot for Tusk and some of the other Fleetwood Mac over-produced AOR anthems, but I’m certainly not one of those guitar freaks that has a big hard on for Peter Green, just listen to Man of the World, it’s a putrid and maudlin wankfest. I must not have read the liner-notes though, because when I did the research on Earl Vince and the Valiants, I found out the truth, that, like the XTC/Dukes of Stratosphear ruse, E.V.& The Valiants are another genre-induced joke band, and, as in the other case, they are better than the real thing. I must admit, some of the good will I felt toward this song has somewhat diminished by finding out the truth, but it still is a great song, and it detailed the picturesque image of blood on the dance floor long before M.J.

78. Skyway (2:06)-The Replacements, Pleased To Meet Me, (1986)-A very sweet song, from a band (or at the very least, a principal songwriter) that proved it could grow up if it wanted to. A very well-written album with three classic songs on it: besides the bare-acoustic Skyway, there is also the song about the man and the myth, Alex Chilton and the anthemic Can’t Hardly Wait. Alex Chilton’s producer of choice, Jim Dickinson—the man who did something like producing on Chilton’s Third /Sister Lovers album and Like Flies on Sherbert—was tapped to produce Pleased to Meet Me in Memphis, but he just, sadly, gets in the way, adding all kinds of corny, eighties sounding reverb that makes this a good candidate for the Naked treatment that Paul McCartney used to expunge Phil Spector’s soul from Let it Be.

77. Sister Golden Hair (3:19)-America, Hearts, (1975)-Not something that I expected to like, but sometimes you don’t pick the song, it picks you. I really would never buy an America album, but this is just one of those radio-ready type songs that cheaply comes to you through the oftentimes powerful conduit of childhood memories. America really are only a half-rung above the Eagles, which is to say, the bottom. Sister Golden Hair though, is a gorgeous bouncy bit of country-tinged AOR fluff that is just really easy to listen to, unlike their more silly and famous offerings, Ventura Highway and A Horse With no Name, which make me want to vomit.

76. Simple Love (original version) (3:40)-The Saints, Paralytic Tonight, Dublin Tomorrow EP, (1980)-Besides Children of Nuggets, another favorite compilation of mine that I heard for the first time this year, was Do the Pop—a collection of songs from Australian punk bands, the most famous of which were The Saints. Personally, I like Radio Birdman better, but The Saints are more a part of that ’77 class of punk bands. Simple Love is the kind of deceptive song that starts off with a rather slow-building and pedestrian first verse, that lurches into an absolutely perfect hand-clapped chorus; a phenomenal mid-tempo punk song.

75. She Lied (1:59)-The Mummies, Never Been Caught (1992)-This is almost two minutes of pure garage filth. Usually I don’t like bands that dress alike, but if you are going to do it, dressing like mummies is preferable to dressing like members of a barbershop quartet. The Mummies were a total prehistoric mess of a trash band, whose production values were nonexistent. I once read a review, in which the writer said that they sounded as if they were recorded on equipment from the forties, which is a kind of a ridiculous thing to say, but if (good) sound quality is something that you require from your listening experience, steer clear of The Mummies.

74. Shadow (2:29)-The Lurkers, Fulham Fallout (1978)-Along with the Miracle Workers and The Oblivians, The Lurkers are a new favorite band of mine. They are a group, to my eternal shame, that I had not heard prior to 2006 (proof that, even when you think you know everything about music, you know absolutely nothing). Shadow is a total dumb-assed rock masterpiece, replete with the most unimaginative drumbeat ever committed to tape. It is a beautiful example of the kind of minimal punk songwriting made famous by the Ramones, the kind of song that even in its monotony is terribly effecting.

73. Rumble (2:28)-Link Wray & His Ray Men, Single on Cadence Records (1958)-The king of fuzz; the king of scuzz; the king of the surf guitar. Dick Dale with his histrionic and eastern-influenced guitar style should bow before the most famous student of Hambone the circus guitarist. Rumble is mid-tempo fuzzy (Link slashed his amp way before Dave Davies) genius; a punk song before punk thought that it had to be fast.

72. Romeo And The Lonely Girl (3:56)-Thin Lizzy, Jailbreak (1976)-Perhaps because recently, The Boys are Back in Town has been used as a shill for Capital One credit cards, I have gravitated toward this other Springsteenesque novelistic entry from Jailbreak. A good bit cornier (how about this for the first line of a chorus: oh-hoh Poor Romeo, sitting’ out on his own-eo…), Romeo and the Lonely Girl is still a grand story-song in Phil Lynott’s allegorical style.

71. Ram Jam (2:41)-Jackie Mitoo & The Soul Venders-In so far as reggae, dub, dance hall, ska and all that other stuff is concerned, I am no expert (save for my seventeenth and eighteenth years when I was all about third-generation ska), so I won’t pretend to be. I did however, come across Mitoo while perusing what is possibly the greatest issue of Mojo Magazine ever pressed, issue # 75 (February, 2000). That February Mojo ran a list of cult heroes, one of which was the reggae and ska-pioneering organist, Jackie Mitoo.



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