Teenage Head, Disgusteen . . . Nice day for a party, isn’t it? Great spoken intro, plays on scenes from The Exorcist, hypnotic hook, what else can one ask for?
Ramones, Do You Remember Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio? . . . The Ramones under the influene of exacting “wall of sound’ producer Phil Spector, from their 1980 album End Of The Century. The marriage was a divorce waiting to happen, given Spector’s painstaking, perfectionist producing of a band that was, by its nature, anything but polished and was used to doing things very quickly and damn the details. Yet for all that, what is something of an outlier album in the Ramones’ ouvre is the highest-charting (No. 44 on Billboard) of their records and achieved its intent – breaking the band to a more mainstream audience.
Sex Pistols, EMI . . . An eff you to their previous record company, which dropped them out of fear of the label’s reputation being damaged due to the band’s antics. Kick-butt tune, musically, as is the entire Never Mind The Bollocks album.
Graham Parker & The Rumour, Passion Is No Ordinary Word . . . Never a single yet one of those tracks that becomes widely associated with an artist. He even used it as the title to his excellent 1993 two-CD compilation album.
Elvis Costello, I’m Not Angry . . . Yes you are. Or were. That’s why I bracketed you with GP and JJ, the other two ‘angry young men’ of that late 1970s period when punk and new wave were all the rage, coinciding with my college years. Great times.
Joe Jackson, Mad At You . . . One can never account for why and how some things succeed and others don’t. The easy answer is that if something’s good, it will be successful, and vice-versa. But art is not so cut and dried, obviously. The Beat Crazy album, to me, is one of JJ’s finest achievements, the third and last of his early, new wave period. Cut for cut, it’s easily as good as his first two, Look Sharp and I’m the Man. Yet it didn’t get much airplay and bombed, relatively speaking, as did this infectious, bass-driven beauty, which was the first single.
Blondie, 11:59 . . . Up-tempo tune from Parallel Lines, the 1978 album full of well-known tracks like Heart of Glass, Hanging On The Telephone and One Way Or Another, in many ways the core of Blondie’s catalog.
Talking Heads, Drugs . . . The hypnotic music perfectly matches the title in this creation by the band and producer Brian Eno, who co-wrote the track with head Head David Byrne.
The Clash, Charlie Don’t Surf . . . Cue the classic scene, featuring Robert Duvall, from Apocalypse Now. From Sandinista! It’s a sprawling album, three vinyl records worth upon release in December 1980. It followed the double album mainstream breakthrough London Calling, and while the argument is often made by critics that double or (rare) triple studio albums would be better edited down to one, tighter release, I disagree but grant that it likely depends on the album. I was listening to Sandinista in the car this week, first time in a long time listening to it all the way through. And while one could argue there’s some filler, the album wouldn’t be the same without it as the band fuses myriad genres into an intoxicating whole. It’s akin to The Beatles’ White Album, which acclaimed producer George Martin said would better have been shaved to one disc. With all due respect to Sir George, I disagree.
Flash And The Pan, Walking In The Rain/Lights In The Night . . . Two songs from two different albums, Flash And The Pan’s debut and the title cut from the album that followed it, but to me they’ve always been of a piece in style and content, so I always tie them together. Great lyrics, at least to me, particularly in Lights In The Night: Talking to the ceiling, feeling kinda ill, if the radio doesn’t get me, the TV will. . . . Kiss another bottle, sink another drink, throw away the feeling, throw away the pill, if the bottle doesn’t get me, the thinking will.
Ian Dury, Wake Up And Make Love With Me . . . So there I was, first year college student still, like the brother back at home with his Beatles and his Stones from Mott The Hoople’s David Bowie-penned All The Young Dudes, and a new classmate puts on the New Boots and Panties album as we drive to a party. I was hooked. My big, tough football teammates thought I was insane and wondered what happened to the Beatles, Stones, Deep Purple, Zeppelin, etc. in my listening habits. I said, open your ears and minds; they’re all still there, you can like more than one thing at once. Then I put on the Talking Heads to drive them even more nuts.
Television, Friction . . . It took me ages to get into Television’s Marquee Moon album. I could never ‘get’ why it was considered such a classic. Then, one day, it all clicked.
Dead Kennedys, The Prey . . . Spooky track, scary subject, an assault.
The B-52’s, Lava . . . I must admit I’m not that big on the B-52’s, the band I mean. The drink’s ok, although I haven’t had many, never having acquired much of a taste for the so-called hard stuff. I’ve dabbled, just never gone further. As for the band, outside of Planet Claire, easily their best song, and maybe Rock Lobster, which I don’t think has aged well, the B-52’s are more, to me, a goofball curio from a place and time although they’re still around. Anyway, I figured a show featuring late ’70s/early ’80s punk/new wave would be lacking without one of their songs, so here you go. Yeah, I know, what a backhanded endorsement. So be it.
Martha and The Muffins, Paint By Number Heart . . . Third single from their Echo Beach-dominated 1980 debut, Metro Music. Nice saxophone work by Andy Haas.
BB Gabor, Big Yellow Taxi . . . As we transition, via Gabor’s reinvention of the Joni Mitchell hit, from a punk/new wave show into my more typical fare, so-called classic rock. I just realized I forgot to play Devo in the new wave portion, and The Police, too. Probably others. Oh well, the show is set and, well, maybe next time.
Bruce Springsteen, Drive All Night . . . I was reading a review of The River album, one of my favorites by Springsteen along with Born To Run and Darkness On The Edge of Town, wherein the critic mentioned Springsteen’s sometimes ‘overwrought’ singing which is the best description I’ve heard and is evident towards the end of this track. Still, it’s a fine, lengthy piece about lost love or, in the words of the same reviewer about the whole album: ‘a bitter empathy, these are the wages of young romantic love among those who get paid by the hour.’ It’s the root of Springsteen’s appeal, or at least was, during his early days.
Gregg Allman, Dark End Of The Street . . . Allman’s version of the classic soul song, covered countless times by various artists and worth reading up on. This one’s from Allman’s excellent 1997 album Searching For Simplicity.
The Allman Brothers Band, Dreams . . . I was cruising the web the other day and up popped an article detailing ‘the five Allman Brothers deep cuts you must hear”. Maybe because I’m a big fan of the band, I never thought of Dreams as a deep cut; it’s quite well known. At least to Allmans fans. On the other hand, aside from Ramblin’ Man, which made No. 2, the Allmans never had a top 10 single, amazingly enough, perhaps. So, I suppose to casual listeners, Dreams would be a deep cut. Works for me.
John Mellencamp, Circling Around The Moon . . . Every now and then you go back to albums you haven’t listened to in ages, like Mellencamp’s 1996 release Mr. Happy Go Lucky and think, wow, that’s a great album, and that’s a great song. And it is. What a relatively unknown, underappreciated gem, musically and lyrically: “On the day we met, I began to want you; on the day we met I began to lose you, too.”
Van Morrison, Hymns To The Silence . . . Lengthy title cut, a shade under 10 mnutes, from Van The Man’s 1991 album. A brilliant artist on so many levels, he’s very good at long songs, always compelling, never boring, seemingly shorter than their actual length because time passes quickly listening to them.
The Rolling Stones, Goin’ Home . . . From Aftermath, the fine 1966 album which, for the first time, featured no cover tunes, all songs by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as the band continued to blossom creatively. Going Home is perhaps an atypical Stones’ track, certainly in terms of length. At 11 ½ minutes, it was, at the time, the longest studio track ever released by a major rock band. And, on that note, I am goin’ home.