For those of you who are fashionably late to the party, I decided to take the foot off the gas, so to speak, with outdoor related posts not directly related to me going outdoors. I've been thinking about putting this list together for awhile, so why not now? There are 21 songs because there are 21 songs. To sum up our results so far:
21. Avail "Fifth Wheel"
20. Ned's Atomic Dustbin "Grey Cell Green"
19. REM "Don't Go Back to Rockville"
18. No Doubt "Sunday Morning"
17. Ben Harper "I am Blessed to Be a Witness"
16. Cephas and Wiggins "Richmond Blues"
15. Animals: "House of the Rising Sun." This is one of my favorite songs of all time. My dad would turn it up on the AM radio in his '68 Firebird. The Animals were highly underappreciated compared to the initially similar-in-every-way Beatles; but in retrospect, the Animals' first few efforts were pretty much their best, whereas the Beatles continued on to do at least sporadically better, and vastly more popular and accessible, work throughout their careers. Much hay was made about the fact that the Animals "stole" this song, but of course, it's a poor peoples' song. And the music of the poor is stolen all the time. Speaking of which, at least two songs covered by the Animals make an appearance toward the top of this list!
14. The Clash "London Calling." I was obsessed with world politics as a young boy. Still am, to some extent. I heard "London Calling" for the first time when I was about 13, around 1987. It was the bleakest picture of apocalypse that I'd heard from a record. "A nuclear error - but I have no fear. For London is drowning and I live by the river." Just....bleak. I went on to become a huge Clash and Joe Strummer fan (Strummer passed away almost 10 years ago).
And for the first time in this list, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention other amazing tunes by this band, like Brand New Cadillac (later covered by Brian Setzer), Guns of Brixton (recently covered by Jimmy Cliff), Straight to Hell (later sampled by M.I.A. in "Paper Planes"), Spanish Bombs (nearly supplanted "London Calling" for this spot), and of course, Safe European Home. The Clash, for whatever their failings were, had a great interest in peeling back the scab of colonialism and looking at how the "99%" live. In that aim, they were massively successful.
13. Rolling Stones "Paint it Black." Like "House of the Rising Sun," I first heard this song in my father's car. This is the first song that ever truly scared me. Like many of the songs on this list, the more life perspective the listener gains inbetween times he or she hears this song, the more terrified they'll be after they next hear it. It doesn't become less scary. "Paint it Black," to me, is a horrifying story of what can go wrong with manhood, particularly. Every self-discovery ends in self-loathing. The only way to abate the discoveries is to simply destroy. Another song in this category is "The End" by the Doors. I was never a Jim Morrison fan, but yes, it's a scary freaking song.
12. Ramones "I Believe in Miracles." Come on people, I had to throw in a positive song. And an American one, at that. The Ramones grew up in my Dad's neighborhood of Forest Hills, Queens, NYC, and Joey went to Forest Hills HS with my aunt. Coolest band and coolest fans ever. I didn't see this video until I was in college, well after the song was released, and this video instantly required me to put this song on a pedestal. The constant rolling "shout out" is all wonderful, all rock and roll - including honors to Robert Johnson, Carl Perkins, Bo Diddley, the Animals (#15 on this list), the Clash (#14), and Metallica (barely missed this list for "Battery" and/or "Master of Puppets").
11. Social Distortion "Ball and Chain." I heard this song in my friend John's garage "practice space" when it came out in early 1990. It's been my favorite song for the last 22 years. "Well I sit and I pray, in my '54 Chevrolet." I've seen the band a dozen or more times and even hung out with them (briefly) on their tour bus in 1990. This song is special, even though the band arguably has better songs (see #5, "Prison Bound"). I thought that my beach friends and I had this little song all to ourselves - then was shocked when I showed up at college and learned that college and alternative radio stations had been playing the heck out of it for a year!
And just for fun, here's a live version, 20 years later, in front of 50,000? 100,000? young fans.
Tune in next time for #s 10 - 6!