It's that time of year again when I subject my godson to a load of hoary old tunes from my youth, along with (I hope) just enough current material to keep my, uh, “street cred” intact. The task is getting increasingly challenging as the lad is on the verge of attaining his driver's license. I asked my friend if this was the year I should just give the boy an iTunes gift certificate and tell him to send me something for a change. “Absolutely not,” was the answer. “Your discs are the only music we can agree on.”
I think it's best I just interpret that statement in the most flattering sense, and soldier on. This year I looked for inspiration to veteran hit-maker (and fellow Canuck) Randy Bachman. His Saturday night radio show Vinyl Tap is a family favorite, discovered while I ferried my older daughter to her ringette games. As I play taxi driver and chaperon, it's not uncommon for the audience in the back seat to stay put once we've reached our destination, just to listen to Bachman conclude his thoughts on why a particular song is so darn good. When I heard that BTO's “Takin' Care of Business” was one of the proposed songs for a potential world record setter (most guitarists playing in one spot) I figured the best tactic for the first disc of this summer's soundtrack was to build up to this song. Here we go:
“Give The People What They Want” The Kinks - In fact the intro is (once again) kicked off with a few select bars from my ancient collection of CCM oddities, interrupted by a stylus rake that finally settles on this discombobulating anthem. I can only assume Ray Davies is being ironic, since he's never shied away from the lowest common denominator when it comes to a song's subject matter. Then again, if he ever worried whether his songs would make the Billboard 100, that's an urge he's long since lost. In either case, it's a pertinent reminder that adolescent kids will often listen to complete crap just because it's what they want (A, e).
“Turn On Your Receiver” Nazareth - The only Nazareth song I've heard in a soundtrack was “Love Hurts,” for a King Of The Hill episode, in which Bobby Hill's gout prevented him from dancing with Connie at the grad hop. I suppose Nazareth were like any other rock band: the first concern was success, and posterity figured, if at all, very distantly. They could lay down a riff with the very best of their contemporaries; it beats me why they aren't more widely hailed (A).
“Talk To Ya Later” The Tubes - Possibly the most cringe-inducing song on the disc: the singer is leaving a woman because she talks too much. Bleah. However, the song embodies the best use of 80s-era synthesizer technology: percussion, followed up with cheesy B-movie atmospherics (A).
“Thinking Of You” Harlequin - The other Winnipeg band to become an international sensation. Almost.
“Say Hello” April Wine - Five years ago I nearly drove into the ditch when I saw a sign outside a strip club advertising “a command performance by April Wine.” Back in the day those guys could fill an arena. Live to play, I guess. Anyhow, it's a shame this tune isn't slightly better known because it, too, has a guitar riff that could break a world record (A).
“99 and 1/2” Mavis Staples - Actually, I'm 99 ½ percent sure I've subjected the boy to this song before. But it fits perfectly here. And I still smile at the way Mavis says, “Now, if your God won't help you, you better try mine.” (A)
“Cruel To Be Kind” Nick Lowe - I truly apologize, Nick: you've written so many other fabulous songs you should really be known for. But this one still tops the charts (A, e).
“Bruises” Chairlift - eMusic's recommendation engine is about as useful as Amazon's (which is to say, “Not very”). But at some point this past year they sent me an e-mail saying, “We can finally offer you a song that Apple is using in its iPod commercials!!!” I've never seen said commercial, but I'm glad I checked out the song. It's incredibly infectious (naturally). No longer at eMusic alas (A).
“Paper Planes” M.I.A. - If I understand this song (and I'm not at all confident I do) it's either about child soldiers, or child gangsters (same diff, you say) in the two-thirds world. In any case, it is THE creepiest song I've heard all year. And yet you dance to it (A, e).
“Major Tom” Shiny Toy Guns - Another song from a commercial, and a fabulous cover from the kids these days (A).
“Baila Morena” Zucchero - One of my religious studies buddies sent me this link with the comment, “It's like watching Benny Hinn in reverse!” Indeed, and twice as much fun. It's also a tune that cooks. If you want to get my daughters dancing, just play these last four songs (A, e).
“Electric Eye” Judas Priest - Time to switch it up a bit. My older daughter pointed out that the bridge to this song is used in a popular snowboarding video game, so here it is (A).
“Symphony of Destruction” Megadeth - I went with a concert performance in Buenos Aires, because the audience is singing along. Not the words, mind you, but the riff: “Bee-Yaap-Bee, bup-bup-bup Bee-Yaap-Bee.” Gives me the chills, actually (A, e).
“Two Minutes To Midnight” Iron Maiden - Funny (or not) how that minute hand just doesn't want to budge (A).
“Sabotage” Beastie Boys - One of the weaker songs from the Boys, but I included it for two reasons: it's in the weakest scene of the Star Trek movie, and it's the same bloody riff that we heard in 2 Minutes and Eye. Talk about staying power! (A)
“Ride On” AC/DC - Bon Scott used to call AC/DC “an honest rock 'n' roll band.” But this was probably the only song in which he was honest with himself. It's pretty sad to listen to (A).
“No One To Cry To” The Sons Of The Pioneers - TSOTP was known to my grandparents (and some of their kids) for cowboy songs like “Tumblin' Tumbleweeds” and “Cool Water.” This song is a nice fit after the last one, and has that tonal quality I mused about in this post. Surprisingly hard to find, though. I got it off this soundtrack.
“Takin' Care Of Business” Bachman Turner Overdrive - 'Cos if you're alive, that's what ya gotta do. Thanks, Randy!
The track list for Disc 2 is still to be determined. Last year's discs are here and here.
Update: looks like Neil Young's morose emo-anthem "Helpless" was chosen for the Luminato stunt. 2000 guitarists attempting to play that in unison -- now there's a spectacle to get yer blood up!