Monday, August 18, 2008

The Summer Soundtrack Disc 2: Anthems & Oddities

As with Disc One, Disc Two continues my godson's initiation into the soundtrack to the early life of his old man (and me).

“Trumpet Of Jesus” The Imperials We start with an oddity that was meant to be an anthem. A friend of mine slipped this number into a mixed CD of otherwise lovely music which I first saw fit to play at a party. The event came to a full stop as the crowd witnessed me nearly wetting my pants with laughter. “Trumpet” isn’t offensive, like this Imperials number — it’s just flavorless corn. I couldn’t subject my godson to the whole thing, however, so I cut it short after the first few bars and closed it with the sound effect of a stylus being pulled across an LP.

“School’s Out” Alice Cooper I’m nearing the end of my Alice ride, but this is a number I’ve enjoyed since childhood. It’s also one of his funniest songs. Lyrically, Alice transitions easily from the Porteresque, “Well we can’t salute ya, can’t find a flag/If that don’t suit ya, that’s a drag” to the gleefully incoherent, “We’ve got no class and we got no principles ... we can’t even think of a word that rhymes.” I'm told it's also a staple on Guitar Hero, my godson's current favorite video game. Every summer soundtrack should start with this song. (A)

“Loser” Beck The only line in this song that makes a lick of sense is the chorus: “I’m a loser, baby/So why don’t you kill me?” I can remember exactly where I was and how I reacted when I first heard this song. At the time I noticed kids my age reading this weird-looking book on the subway: Generation X. When I finally picked up my own copy, I figured this was the book's, and our, theme song. (A)

“Drugs In My Pocket” The Monks My high school basketball team, of which I was not a member, used to warm up to Bad Habits. I don’t think any of them realized The Monks were actually a parody act — I know I didn’t. The song is pretty silly, alright, but not a little catchy, too. I was actually looking for their other greatest hit, “Nice Legs Shame About The Face” but had to settle for this.

“Thank You For Sending Me An Angel” Talking Heads I’ve been enjoying the recently polished-up re-released Talking Heads. More Songs About Buildings And Food is especially new on the ears: I hadn’t realized just how trippy Eno’s production had been. (A)

“One Way Or Another” Blondie In her most popular songs Deborah Harry projected a particular persona that suggested the singer was juuuuuust a little crazy. Now, I would never go so far as to say this was in fact the reality for Harry, anymore than I’d suggest Johnny Cash really did shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die. But she was very convincing, and nowhere moreso than on this song. She starts by stalking her prey, and concludes by "giving (him) the slip." A young man listens and thinks, Whoa: kinda exciting! An older man listens and tallies up a ledger of regret. (A)

“I Need A Lover (That Won’t Drive Me Crazy)” Pat Benatar Speaking of personas, Pat Benatar’s original attempt at being the “Bad Sexy Girl” struck me as a pose, even when I was 14 years old. But, man, did that girl ever have a set of pipes. And she was very easy on the eyes. (A)

“Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)” The Hollies
For many, many years a person could not walk down a fairground midway without hearing this song being played at 11. Just listening to it now conjures up an olfactory miasma of popcorn, cotton candy, cigarette smoke and pogos and churros fresh out of the fryer. (A)

“I’m An Adult Now” The Pursuit Of Happiness Another GenX anthem that is funny because it’s true. “Gotta get up and take on that world. When you’re an adult it’s no cliché, it’s the truth!” (YT)

“In The Ghetto” Elvis Presley
It’s time to slow things down with a few oddities. Elvis’ expression of earnest concern is almost comical, as is his pronunciation of “Ghetto.” An easy song to sing along dramatically to. (A)

“Ringo” Lorne Greene My godson’s father and I had a grade five music teacher who would play us selections from his Reader’s Digest Boxed Set of Pop Music From The 60s. This was a regularly requested favorite, until we’d memorized the lyrics and substituted them with the usual schoolyard silliness. (A)

“Da Da Da” Trio How in the world did this weird little ditty from Germany pull us onto the gymnasium floor? How does it still? (A)

“I Will Survive” Gloria Gaynor A BIG favorite in our house. And who doesn’t get shivers down their spine when Gloria pauses, sings a plaintive, catch-my-breath “Oh,” then regains her high dudgeon as the harp-strings glide back in? (A)

“Common People” William Shatner So far as I’m concerned, Shatner owns this song. And this is its definitive video. (A)

“Hit Me With Your Best Shot” Pat Benatar I didn’t realize, and could have easily foreseen, that would-be Guitar Heroes eventually suffer from Anthem Fatigue. When I visited my godson this summer, it quickly became apparent that this inclusion was extremely unwelcome. No surprise, really. Its fastidious squeaky-clean production contributes to the final effect. Ah, well: we have a miss. (A)

“My Sharona” The Knack
Reality Bites was pretty thin gruel for a movie, but I remain grateful for the scene where Janeane Garofalo says to a convenience store clerk, “Ooo! Please turn this song up! I assure you, you will NOT regret it!” (A)

“You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” Judas Priest And so did all the fans who thought singer Rob Halford wore leather, studs and dog-collars because he was such a tough guy. Even the most homophobic headbangers had to admit, though, the Dude sure could howl. (A)

“Solsbury Hill” Peter Gabriel My all-time favorite from Gabriel’s considerable ouevre. For reasons I could never articulate, I always get choked up and have to quit whenever I try to sing along. (A)

“Creep” Radiohead The other side of the “One Way Or Another” coin. (A)

“Only You (And You Alone)” Alvin & The Chipmunks (A) My younger daughter is deeply entrenched in an Alvin & The Chipmunks phase. But even she enjoys my “Trumpet Of Jesus” treatment of this piece: just a few early bars, followed by a record-zip and we’re straight into...

“Burning Love” Elvis Presley Sure he was cheesy — but he was The King. (A)

“I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” Joan Jett & The Blackhearts My older daughter’s current fave. Jett’s is a persona that trumps all poses. And she kicks out as swell a closing anthem as you’re likely to find for any summertime soundtrack. (A, e)


Yahmdallah said...

Geez, dude. Sometimes I wonder if we're half brothers or something since we often are listening to the same things at the same time (like "Shake it Off" by the Supersuckers - what a tune).

"Loser" and "I need a lover" (though I prefer the Mellencamp version with the long, windy intro) are both on heavy rotation at my chateau too.

I also like everything on that list that I've heard, and am gonna hunt up those I haven't.

I've also rediscovered the albums ... but that belongs in a blog post.

DarkoV said...

You were quite the open-eared guy back in your youth what with all of the female lead-singing going on. I was surprised that you hadn't listed a Patti Smith tune.

It was great to see all the spiky-haired girls so well represented.

So many Presleys was a major surprise, even when you had your tongue deeply pressing your ironic cheek.

I'd love to read about your godson's reaction to these two CD's.

Whisky Prajer said...

Y-man - the "Johnny Cougar" original certainly rocks, and I could have probably stood to drop one of Benatar's numbers. But still and all ... I do like that voice of hers.

DV - Patti Smith is certainly an oversight on my part, as is the lack of Chrissie Hynde. Geez, a guy starts to wonder if these ladies didn't all share a hairdresser at some key interval!

Yahmdallah said...

I agree. She had/has a set of pipes, that girl. You probably know this, but she was trained as an Opera singer, but was too tiny to get any roles. Seems Opera chicks need to be more zaftig than she.

Scott said...

Hey, forgot to chime in here before and let you know how much I enjoyed your playlist -- your taste, as always, is eclectic and impeccable!