Some years ago my friend suggested I might send his son (my godson) a yearly mixed tape of music I thought the kid might like. There were a number of years where that conceit worked just fine. He was a squirt, I was a dude who listened to music and could be relied upon to be somewhat abreast with the hip. He’s fifteen now, and the conceit has by necessity shifted: I now send him a disc of music his father and I enjoyed when we were his age (uh ... more or less).
Perhaps the mixed CDs give the kid a window into his father’s soul, but I doubt it. If I had a godfather, and he sent me a soundtrack to the youth he and my father shared, I would put the music on whenever my parents visited, and rely on it for a pleasant background.
And so it is with these discs. I’m told my godson requests my music whenever he gets into the family car and senses a descending mood in his father. Works for me!
Most of these tracks can be purchased through iTunes, and I link whenever they are available on Amazon or eMusic. Alright then: Disc One.
“Nightmare #71” — Larry Norman. Norman, the Father Of Christian Rock, passed away earlier this year. He penned a number of songs he’ll be remembered for, most of them somewhat notorious. I think "Nightmare #71" is his best and can be enjoyed by anybody. It’s a weird pastiche and every time I heard him sing it in concert I was convinced he’d actually written it that very morning. It has a slight tint of Jesus Freak hubris: Hey, we’re the Last Generation! (Yeah, right. Just try telling that to your grandkids). But once you get past that ... actually, there is no getting past it: this is all the song is about. And it goes about it very, very well. Norman swings from being the understated straight man in his own dream to making stentorian proclamations on just how fucked-up things have got. He pulls off a terrific juggling act that is at turns unsettling, occasionally alarming in its acuity, but also genuinely funny. That combo makes for a very haunting song, and a terrific kick-off. (A, e)
“Rock & Roll Records (Ain’t Selling This Year)” — Supersuckers. ‘Cos they’re just so damn good. (A, e)
“Sunset Babies (All Got Rabies)” — Alice Cooper. Ditto. (A, e)
“I Got It What You Need” — Galactic. Ah, yer old godfather ain’t such a square after all. Is he? Is he? (A)
“Electric Avenue” — Eddy Grant. Okay, I might as well raise the white flag and just give up. Actually, I’ve always wondered why Grant, who wrote plenty of top-notch songs, never received notice for his wider ouevre. But then I suppose I’m not helping matters any. Moving on ... (A, e)
“Tube Snake Boogie” — ZZ Top. I’ve loved these guys from the get-go. In fact I’m partial to the Tres Hombres era, but this tune goes some distance in explaining why three old coots who never do anything flashy onstage manage to keep us entertained. (A)
“Where Have All The Good Times Gone?” — Van Halen. A bit of a theme song for me, last summer, and a catchy one at that. (A)
“Cum On Feel The Noize” — Quiet Riot (A, e). Another rock personality kicked this year: Kevin DuBrow from Quiet Riot. I have to admit this song makes me cringe a little, but not nearly as much as ...
“Turn Up The Radio” — Autograph. I have no justification whatsoever for the presence of this song, except that I’ve always agreed with the sentiment, “Things go better with rock.” (A, e)
“Just Us Kids” — James McMurtry. I blogged about this song here. (e, A)
“No Heaven” — DJ Champion. I clued into this song when Champion closed the Junos last year. He synched up four guitarists for the task, and the final effect was incredibly impressive. (iTunes only, sorry)
“Bang On The Drum” — Todd Rundgren. Classic summertime tune. (A, e)
“Shake It Off” — Supersuckers. Ditto. (A, e)
“Welcome To The Jungle” — Guns ‘n’ Roses. I actually think Appetite For Destruction rates as one of the most overrated albums of the last quarter century. That said, there is no denying its opening killer riff. An obligatory Guitar Hero inclusion. (A)
“Brutal Planet” — Alice Cooper. Alice’s Industrial Metal phase. If Appetite For Destruction had been written by a Sunday School teacher, it would have sounded like this. Go ahead and laugh, but it actually works. (iTunes only)
“Spider-Man” (1970s TV series theme). Having played-out the hard rock genre, I now need a snapping good segue into the next phase of music. This is it.
“Ain’t That A Kick In The Head” — Dean Martin. I blogged about this one here. (A)
“Girls On My Mind” — David Byrne. Another fine summertime song, for obvious reasons. (A)
“Watch Us Work It” — Devo. I stumbled across this remix on eMusic, and it reminded me of what I liked so much about early Devo. For listeners who know Devo chiefly from their post-New Traditionalist material, it can be a revelation to realize they began as a guitar based group. The chorus on this song has a nifty guitar groove that sounds equally tasty on acoustic guitar (go give it a try). (A, e)
“We’re Here For A Good Time” — Trooper. Speaking of acoustic guitars, this track from Canada's own is a dandy for any 15 year old to master.
“Then I’m Gone” — Supersuckers. “Yeah, I still smoke. And I drink too much. Yeah, I’m still broke—baby, let’s go dutch.” Pure poetry! (A, e)
“It's Up To You” — Barnabas. Barnabas was one of the precious few (which is to say two, maybe three) Christian Metal bands of the early 80s. Founding member Monte Cooley played guitar for Hear The Light, Barnabas' inaugural album, and I’m grateful for it. Blues-based, note-bending, not too speedy, yet certainly dramatic in the extreme it remains delightful to listen to, and actually works very well with the band's “Sinner Repent!” motif. It’s also worth noting that Barnabas’ misadventures with the hard-right on-air christo-blowhards provided some grist for my creative mill when I wrote Christian Punk.
Hey, how about that? This music is a window into my soul!
More revelations to come in Disc Two.