Playlist: Our Favorite Songs About… Flying

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“I like pleasure spiked with pain, and music is my aeroplane…” – Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Aeroplane”

I took a little time away from B&V to recharge the musical batteries. As it turns out I’ve also spent a little time in airports and airplanes recently as well… I am on record as admitting I chose the career of the itinerant sales guy. I have to admit, due to the pandemic, I hadn’t flown in quite a while. What a shitty experience flying is now. I’m old enough that I can remember when I was a real little kid, people used to dress up to fly. I remember the first time I flew, I was probably 3, my mom put me in a sporty red blazer and clip-on tie and shellacked my cowlick hair down with, well, mom spit. I don’t remember most of it, but I’ve seen the pictures. In those pics my grandparents, who only drove to the airport to pick us up, were also dressed to the nines. I can’t imagine seeing my Grandmother in yoga pants or my grandfather in a Budweiser t-shirt standing at the gate. We’re not even making the bare minimum effort folks. The last time I flew, I was sitting across from a guy who farted and pretended nothing happened. Thanks pal.

Ah, flying. It all seemed so glamorous when I was a kid. I remember it as being a lot easier. The Wright Brothers, who were the first to fly in 1903 probably never imagined having to take your shoes off to board the Wright Flyer outside of Kitty Hawk. I’ve spent my whole career hanging around airports waiting on a delayed flight or having made the mad dash to the airport and missed that elusive earlier flight. I can’t even begin to tally up all the time I’ve wasted sitting in the gate of some crowded, sweaty airport. I think the airlines only hire sadists these days. I had a flight cancelled recently and I’m certain the gate agent was a former prison camp commandant…There’s something inherently lonely about flying. I was always surrounded by people but had my head buried in my work laptop or a book and most always had my trusty headphones on to be transported out of that situation by rock n roll. What’s that old cliche about being “alone in a crowd?”

That’s the thing about flying somewhere. You are, by definition, leaving somewhere or some place. And flight allows us to travel great, great distances so you’re again, by definition, going a long, long way from home. While travel and traveling are exciting there is an underlying sorrow that always seemed to nag me. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy soaring above the clouds, looking down and trying to recognize landmarks, headed off to explore the world. I’ve been from San Francisco to New York to Barcelona and Rome. There is a freedom in being able to “fly away.” But that freedom also can breed isolation. Sometimes the person you’re flying away from deserves to be left behind. But, then again, now I do most of my fun travel with the Rock Chick and I find that immensely better than the old days.

I will admit, when anybody asked me – and strangely people seemed to ask me this a lot – what “Super Power” I would want if I could have one, I always said flying. Naturally most of my friends wanted to be invisible… something about sneaking into the girl’s shower and “observing?” I have always been surrounded by degenerates…thankfully. I always thought being able to fly – without a plane – was the Super Power to pick. I always said, “I want to fly like Superman,” as the Kinks famously sang. You could go anywhere and be there quickly. You didn’t have to check bags or sit in the middle seat. And who amongst us hasn’t admired the majestic flight of birds. I was standing by a pond once when a flock of ducks floated in and landed on the water in unison. I remember thinking, “Man, I wish I could do that…”

Of course, for me, the easiest way for me to get “airborne” is to slip those head phones on, much as Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers described above, and turn up the music. All of these thoughts about flying – whether in a plane or like superman or birds in flight – got me to thinking about all the great rock n roll songs about flying. I figured it all be “pedal to the metal,” hard driving rock songs. But like I was describing above, there seems to be an undercurrent of sorrow in some of these tracks. As with all of our playlists, we’re all over the board stylistically. It’s the theme that’s important. B&V playlists are best played on “shuffle.”

Without further adieu, here are our favorite songs about Flying. You can find our playlist on Spotify if you’re interested. As always, if there’s a favorite of yours we didn’t include, drop it in the comments. I like to think of B&V playlists as “our” playlists, not “my” playlist. I have left my thoughts on each track below…

  1. Pink Floyd, “Learning To Fly” – I know Pink Floyd purists don’t like the David Gilmour-led version of the band. I love this song. The way he describes flying, it doesn’t sound like he’s piloting a plane… Not every record is Dark Side of The Moon.
  2. The Byrds, “Eight Miles High” – Supposedly planes fly eight miles above the ground but I think the Byrds were likely thinking more about drugs here. Who can blame them, it was the 60s.
  3. The Beatles, “Back In The USSR” – McCartney seems very happy about getting back to the USSR. From The Beatles (aka The White Album).
  4. Eagles, “Earlybird” – From the Eagles debut LP. “He’s got no time for flying in the breeze…”
  5. The Box Tops, “The Letter” – From a young Alex Chilton who went on to form Big Star and record the legendary LP, #1 Record. “Gimme a ticket on an aeroplane, ain’t got time to take a fast train…”
  6. New York Dolls, “Jet Boy” – I just saw a great documentary about David Johansen, the lead singer of the Dolls. Great stuff!
  7. Lou Reed, “Fly Into The Sun” – From one of my favorite Lou LPs, New Sensations. Perhaps his happiest LP? I also love New York, of course.
  8. The Cult, “In The Clouds” – Great track only found on a greatest hits disc. If you’re in the clouds, I have to assume you’re flying.
  9. Jimi Hendrix, “Night Flying Bird” – Great posthumous tune from Jimi.
  10. The Black Keys, “Aeroplane Blues” – The Black Keys are so consistently kick ass. I loved their last LP, Dropout Boogie
  11. Billy Joel, “Scandinavian Skies” – Billy Joel singing about a tour of Scandinavia where they flew from country to country? I had heard somewhere along the line that this song was about heroin?
  12. Slash (featuring Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators), “Bent To Fly” – My friend Stormin’ turned me onto Slash’s solo work with Myles. A soaring power ballad from World On Fire.
  13. Frank Sinatra, “Come Fly With Me” – I had to include a couple of tracks from the Chairman of the Board.
  14. Johnny Cash, “I’ll Fly Away” – Johnny singing from his mama’s hymn book. I’m at best a pagan and I whispered a little prayer the first time I heard this one.
  15. Elton John, “High Flying Bird” – Beautiful sad track from one of my favorite Elton albums, Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only The Piano Player.
  16. David Bowie, “Space Oddity” – You can’t fly much higher than outerspace.
  17. Chuck Berry, “Promised Land” – I wish I could time travel just so I could take this trip with Chuck. I should have found a cover of this track for my Chuck Berry Covers playlist
  18. Howlin’ Wolf, “Mr. Airplane Man” – Howlin’ Wolf singing the blues, asking Mr. Airplane Man to help him find his baby who has taken off… Another mule is kickin’ in his stall.
  19. Sammy Hagar, “Eagles Fly” – Sammy giving us a somewhat patriotic vibe here.
  20. Peter, Paul and Mary, “Leaving On A Jet Plane” – This song, and this version of it, probably surprises some long time readers. My parents loved Peter, Paul and Mary. I grew up hearing this song. Not that my parents played much music.
  21. Frank Sinatra, “Fly Me To The Moon” – My favorite of the two Sinatra songs here.
  22. Marvin Gaye, “Flyin’ High (In The Friendly Sky)” – A track from Marvin’s landmark album from 1971, What’s Going On?
  23. Foo Fighters, “Learn To Fly” – I’m not a huge Fighter of Foo fan but I dig this one. Perfect for this playlist.
  24. Ozzy Osbourne, “Flying High Again” – From Ozzy’s second LP with Randy Rhoads on lead guitar… this song turned me into an Ozzy fan for life.
  25. Talking Heads, “And She Was” – I had originally heard that this song was about a woman who died and the “she” who is floating in the air was her soul. Turns out it’s a story of a chick who took acid and had an out of body, Sharky’s Machine experience.
  26. Steve Miller Band, “Fly Like An Eagle” – A 70s classic.
  27. Elton John, “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be a Long, Long Time)” – The first time I heard this track, from Honky Chateau, I was in the Smithsonian… Weird story.
  28. Buffalo Springfield, “Expecting To Fly” – Great Neil Young, trippy track from the Springfield.
  29. Paul McCartney, “Feet In The Clouds” – Again, maybe not exactly a flying song, but he’s in the clouds… how’d he get there?
  30. Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Travelin’ Band” – First line says it all, “Seven thirty seven comin’ out of the sky, Won’t you take me down to Memphis on a midnight ride…” I just included this in my playlist about the Music/Show Biz.
  31. Faces, “Flying” – I think this was the Faces first single? We do love the Faces here at B&V.
  32. REO Speedwagon, “Time For Me To Fly” – Another track about being time to go. So many times I stayed too long at the “party.”
  33. Iron Maiden, “Flight Of Icarus” – Only a metal band would take a story from Greek Mythology and turn it into a great rock n roll song.
  34. Mudcrutch, “Dreams of Flying” – I loved Mudcrutch. It was the perfect side project for Petty, Mike Campbell and Ben Tench. This is from the second album, creatively titled 2.
  35. Buffalo Springfield, “Flying On The Ground Is Wrong” – Great, great song written by Neil Young and sung by Richie Furay. I’d like to hear a version of this song sung by Neil… I’m sure it’s out there.
  36. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Little Wing” – One of my all time Hendrix favorites. “Fly on, little wing…”
  37. John Mellencamp, “My Aeroplane” – Great deep track from Mellencmap.
  38. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “My Zephyr” – “Fly away on my zephyr…” Does anybody know what Anthony is talking about?
  39. Paul McCartney & Wings, “Jet” – One of my favorite rockers from McCartney.
  40. David Bowie, “I Took A Trip On A Gemini Spaceship” – Bowie was always singing about space.
  41. Linda Ronstadt, “Birds” – Neil Young isn’t on Spotify, but Linda Ronstadt does a fine cover here. I loved her third album.
  42. David Crosby, “Sky Trails” – Brilliant title track from a brilliant album. Sung beautifully by David and Becca Stevens. So sad to have lost Croz this year.
  43. Stephen Stills, “Jet Set (Sigh)” – I loved Manassas.
  44. Queen, “Spread Your Wings” – “Spread your wings and fly away…” From my first Queen LP purchase, News Of The World.
  45. INXS, “Johnson’s Aeroplane” – Obscure early INXS but I dig it.
  46. R.E.M., “Alligator Aviator Autopilot Anitmatter” – R.E.M.’s last few lps were awesome. This fun track is from Collapse Into Now.
  47. Elton John, “Take Me To The Pilot” – I think if you asked to be taken to the pilot these days, the plane would land and an international incident would ensue. A great, great Elton track.
  48. David Bowie, “Like A Rocket Man” – Late period, fabulous Bowie. Bowie and Elton seem obsessed with flying. “I’m speeding like a rocket man…”
  49. Bad Company, “Movin’ On” – Sometimes you just gotta pack up, head to the boarding gate, and get outta there. I had to do this in Jamaica once. Luckily the embassy didn’t get involved.
  50. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Aeroplane” – The true theme song of this playlist. Let the music help you soar, baby.
  51. Led Zeppelin, “Night Flight” – One of my all time favorite deep tracks from the mighty Zeppelin.
  52. Joni Mitchell, “Amelia” – Joni, like Neil is boycotting Spotify – rightly so – so I sub’d in David Crosby’s cover. But I had to list her name here as her version is definitive.
  53. Bad Company, “Seagull” – “Now you fly, through the sky, never asking why, And you fly all around ’til somebody, Shoots you down.” Heavy stuff.
  54. Elton John, “Daniel” – A lamentation about seeing his brother return to Spain on an airplane.
  55. Steve Miller Band, “Jet Airliner” – Another great 70s classic from Steve Miller Band. I’ve always loved this song.
  56. Lenny Kravitz, “Fly Away” – From Lenny’s great LP, 5.
  57. The Kinks, “(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman” – I think I included this track on my list of rock bands with a disco song? I was more of a Batman guy, but I did used to wish I could fly like Superman.
  58. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Police Helicopter” – This is the only song I’ve ever known about helicopters so I included it. Not many people like early RHCP’s, but I do.
  59. Pearl Jam, “Given To Fly” – I consider this one of their greatest tracks.
  60. The Beatles, “Flying” – A spacey instrumental that I felt had to be included. There are some wordless vocals toward the end, but I consider it an instrumental.
  61. The Rolling Stones, “Flight 505” – You know how I love the Stones and it took me this long to include one of their songs? “Well yes I’ll have a drink.” A sorry tale about a man who decides to leave home and seek adventures, but the plane lands… in the sea.
  62. Crosby, Stills, Nash, “Just A Song Before I Go” – Sad track where the singer just wants to hear a song with his woman before he takes off for the “friendly skies.”
  63. The Beatles, “Blackbird” – “Take these broken wings and learn to fly, all your life you were only waiting for this moment to be free…”
  64. Mudcrutch, “Bootleg Flyer” – Mudcrutch having fun imagining flying a plane full of smuggled hooch really low, just above the trees.
  65. ZZ Top, “Flyin’ High” – Soaring arena rock from ZZ Top. Always a winner…
  66. Rush, “Fly By Night” – Another of my absolute favorite tracks… Can’t believe it took me this long to get it on the list.
  67. Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Free Bird” – If you have to have a good ending song, this is it. “Won’t you fly high free bird?” My wife hates this song.

There you go friends. A little playlist to help you as you soar above the clouds whether you’re in an airplane or in your backyard on the patio. Again, if you have a favorite I might have missed, drop it in the comments and I’ll add it on Spotify.

Cheers! And lets remember – Birds of prey know they’re cool (according to the Far Side anyway).

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Playlist: We Once Again Reluctantly Look Back 40 Years: 1983 In Rock N Roll

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As long time readers know, we love our playlists here at B&V. Who doesn’t like a little music to help wile away the hours? Inspired by Bob Dylan’s ‘Theme Time Radio Hour,’ we’ve typically designed our playlists around a certain theme instead of trying to capture a certain mood or tone for a party or a workout. I like to find a group of songs that tackle the same idea or concept. For example, we’ve recently published playlists centered around songs about the Music Business/Show Business and another for those folks about to renege on their expensive New Year’s Eve gym memberships, songs about Walking. Our playlists tend to be all over the place, from metal to straight-up rock n roll to folky stuff to soul music. We like variety here at B&V, I mean, you only live once, savor everything. Our goal is always to put a song in your ear that hasn’t been there for a while – perhaps you’ve forgotten about the track – or better yet, we want to turn you onto something you’ve never heard. And more basically, we aim to entertain you. Nothing like a good playlist in the background when you’re having a drink after a long, arduous week, or in the background while you complete some household task that’s been unfairly assigned to you… And who doesn’t like a bit of music when you’re sitting up late at night with a tumbler of the good stuff contemplating… whatever it is you contemplate in the “wee, small hours,” as Frank sang.

A couple of years ago, inspired by an article about all the great albums that came out in 1971, I did my first chronologically themed playlist, creatively entitled 1971. I built that playlist with songs from albums that were released in that banner year for rock n roll. While we post about singles and concerts and all sorts of things, I tend to really focus on albums. I enjoyed building that 1971 playlist so much, the following year I decided to do the research and build another one celebrating 1972. Ironically the Black Crowes released, shortly after I released my playlist, an EP of cover songs entitled, 1972. Three of the tracks they covered were on my playlist… Are they reading B&V? Over beers with my best buddy Doug last year, I realized that 1982 was a somewhat momentous year for both of us… and I reluctantly decided to do a rock n roll playlist from that stormy year (stormy for me at least), entitled (again, creatively) 1982. There’s just something about those big anniversaries with “0’s” at the end… 40 years, 50 years, etc. that make a playlist seem more important.

This year, to kick off 2023, I decided to start the fresh, new year by looking backwards 50 years for a playlist created from albums released in 1973. Obviously, I have way too much time on my hands if I have the bandwidth to go out and research music from 50 years ago. And let’s face it, in 1973 I was, as Tom Petty sang, “a boy in short pants.” Sure, I was in grade school but I wasn’t listening to Dark Side Of The Moon in the actual year of 1973. I likely would have been terrified by that album at that tender age with no substances to comfort me. In ’73 I’d get up, put on my polyester heavy clothing and head to school, come home for lunch, go back to school, come home for dinner, rinse, repeat. It’s not like I was out protesting the corrupt Nixon administration or celebrating Jackie Stewart’s World Championship in racing and cranking up Aladdin Sane. I don’t think I was even following the local NFL team yet. I was an unformed lump of clay in 1973. Ergo, any emotional attachment I formed to the music of ’73 was formed long after that year was in the record books… But I’m getting off track here. I enjoyed looking back at 1973 that I thought I’d repeat what I did last year and also look back 40 years to 1983…

Obviously when it comes to the stuff from 1983, I do have more of an emotional connection to the music. While we still lived under the threat of the Soviet Union’s nuclear annihilation of the world and Reagan was busy dismantling of the middle class, my concerns were more personal. I was, in the eyes of the legal system, an adult by then. Although mentally, who amongst us in our teens thinks like an adult? As I mentioned when I posted my 1982 playlist about that year, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The first half of ’82 was great, the second half, not so much. 1983 was like a reverse negative of ’82 with the first half bad, the second half relatively better. I was a young adult away at college for the first time in ’82/’83 and it went predictably horrible. I made the wrong choice on every decision. Learning the hard way seems to be my only way for me to learn. Early ’83 ranks amongst the worst era’s of my life, much like living in Arkansas a few years later. But, with the help of Bacardi mixed with Coca-Cola, my pal Doug, and a lot of rock n roll, I got through it. All of that said, it makes it a little hard to look back to ’83 and the music that evokes so many memories. By summer 1983 I was on the mend… although still with large amounts of Bacardi & Coke. I came out of the darkness looking for any self-destruction I could find…and I fear it wasn’t only myself I harmed back then… regrets, yeah, I’ve had a few. If you’re going through some personal change out there and you’re struggling with it, don’t self-medicate, get some help. It’s less expensive and there are much fewer hangovers. By fall of ’83 life was back on the track it was supposed to have been, albeit with some real battle scars, not only for me. And to top all that off, Margaret Thatcher was re-elected so things weren’t exactly rosy for anybody…

Ah, but the music was still pretty great. By ’83 the music we think of as the ’80s was in full swing. There were no vestiges of that great 70s music we’d all grown up on. The sound of synths were to be found everywhere and drum machines were creeping in. Hair metal had begun to ascend. There was so much music from ’83 I had remembered that I had over 100 songs on the initial version of this playlist. I was surprised, after I’d winnowed this down that Bryan Adams and Quiet Riot had made the final cut while songs from Greg Kihn, Loverboy and Nightranger didn’t. I’m not crazy about any of those acts mentioned in that sentence, but the Adams and Quiet Riot songs held some memories. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure I guess? There were some great acts who just made bad records in ’83: Rod Stewart released his worst, Body Wishes; Styx were dead to me after Mr. Roboto; Billy Joel put out the abysmal An Innocent Man; even Aretha Franklin, my Queen, put out a lackluster album produced by Luther Vandross no less, Get It Right. Even Neil Young let me down with the Shocking Pinks and Everybody’s Rockin’. Linda Ronstadt had gone all show tunes on What’s New. No songs from those albums will be found here…

There were some great albums put out by bands I really like but feared no one else would. I ended up cutting tracks from Lou Reed, Thin Lizzy, Roxy Music (whose cover of “Jealous Guy” by John Lennon is fabulous), and Van Morrison. I even cut the title track from Social Distortion’s Mommy’s Little Monster, a track I almost always dedicate to my wife’s cat when I play it here at the house. I wanted to keep Robert Palmer’s song “You Are In My System” but figured no one but me would miss it except me. I guess I could have included a track from Madonna as she released her debut album in 1983 but I just… don’t like Madonna… and this is a rock music blog. Although to prove I’m not a completely sour dude I did include a track from Cyndi Lauper. There were those in ’83 who thought Lauper was going to be the long-term superstar and Madonna was a flash in the pan. The Eurythmics book end the playlist as they put out 2 outstanding albums that year… that’s 70s era output from those guys.

As usual, this playlist is best played on “random.” It can be found on the dreaded Spotify, at the name below (obviously), “BourbonAndVinyl.net 1983 In Rock N Roll.” If there’s a track that doesn’t suit your fancy, hit fast forward. If there’s a track you love from that year, let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to the playlist. This did end up being one of my longest playlists. It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster to put together, frankly. Without further adieu, put on your Wayfarer shades, your Members Only jacket, and stone-washed jeans and enjoy this gnarly playlist… from 1983. The full list, with my pithy comments about each song are below.

  1. Eurythmics, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” – Is there a more iconic synth riff than the one that opens this track. I included this song on my playlist on Dreams. I can close my eyes when I hear this and I’m back in my dorm room. I feel like this track really encapsulates what was happening in music in the ’80s and ergo it’s the perfect place to start.
  2. Dire Straits, “Twisting By The Pool” – One of my favorite “deep tracks” from Mark Knopfler and company. I just commented on my review of Starcrawler’s recent EP Acoustic Sessions – EP that EPs weren’t that big of a deal when I got into music… I guess this EP proves I was wrong. And who doesn’t like a little “twisting” by the pool…
  3. Bryan Adams, “Cuts Like A Knife” – I’m not a huge Adams fan. But this song was everywhere and I did like it back in the day. It resonated for me with things I’d recently slogged through. I always thought he wanted to be the Canadian Springsteen.
  4. Def Leppard, “Photograph” – I could have picked any track on this album but I was fond of this one. The Mutt Lange magic took full effect on this album. “All I’ve got is this photograph…”
  5. Randy Newman, “I Love L.A.” – I know a lot of people don’t like Randy Newman because of the song “Short People,” but I think of him as a modern day Twain, a brilliant satirist. I included this happy song on my playlist about Los Angeles.
  6. Triumph, “Never Surrender” – From the follow-up album to the great Allied Forces. I always thought this was a tamer rewrite of the song “Fight The Good Fight.” But I still dug it though. Very dramatic arrangement.
  7. Journey, “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” – Frontiers was where I started to get off the Journey bandwagon… although I did see them on this tour. Netflix’s last season of ‘Stranger Things’ got me back into this song.
  8. U2, “New Year’s Day” – War was my first U2 album. It was just the first in a long string of their LPs for me. I still have my vinyl copy. I wish the Edge still played guitar like this…
  9. Quiet Riot, “Cum On Feel The Noize” – Clearly a band with problems spelling wirds.
  10. Eric Clapton, “I’ve Got A Rock ‘N’ Roll Heart” – Clapton’s first album after getting sober. I always thought it slightly mellow but it’s a solid record.
  11. Joan Armatrading, “Drop The Pilot” – Every once in a while I just have to keep I song maybe only I dig on a playlist… this is one of those.
  12. The Tubes, “She’s A Beauty” – Oddly enough this song popped up the other night and the Rock Chick and my friend RJ couldn’t talk enough about their love of the song. And the Rock Chick is a beauty…
  13. Pink Floyd, “The Gunners Dream” – The swan song for Roger Waters as leader of Pink Floyd. I posted about his updated version recorded during Covid. This song sums up what he’s been trying to say about war better than just about everything else he’s done.
  14. ZZ Top, “Got Me Under Pressure” – From their mammoth Eliminator album. I think this was the only single without a video with three girls and that old car. I love the guitar on this song. Other than “TV Dinners,” which I was living on at the time, this might be my favorite song on the album.
  15. Naked Eyes, “Promises, Promises” – Were these guys a 1-hit wonder? I love this song. I’ve been waking up every morning with it on my “Mental Jukebox.” I vaguely remember the rather dark video. “You made me promises, promises, you knew you’d never keep.” We’ve all been there.
  16. Fastway, “Say What You Will” – This is one of the greatest rock songs of all time. I don’t know anybody who loves rock n roll who doesn’t love this song.
  17. R.E.M., “Radio Free Europe” – From their great debut album simply one of the best debut albums ever.
  18. Violent Femmes, “Blister In The Sun” – The Rock Chick hates the Violent Femmes. I always liked this song, it’s somewhat iconic in my mind. I think I had a copy of this album taped to a blank cassette for a while that I kept hidden from my friends. We were all metal heads and I didn’t want to fall out of step.
  19. David Bowie, “Modern Love” – Let’s Dance was my first Bowie album. I was drawn to it by the title track. I loved the lyric, “Put on your red shoes and dance the blues.” But this song almost outshines it for me… One of Bowie’s best songs even for the casual fan.
  20. Men At Work, “It’s A Mistake” – A heavy anti-war track that’s light on it’s feet from a band that was everywhere for a few years.
  21. Dave Edmunds, “Slipping Away” – Dave Edmunds never gets the credit he deserves. Great song here. I’m pretty sure this was written by Jeff Lynne of E.L.O. fame.
  22. Martin Briley, “The Salt In My Tears” – This track might be slightly obscure but it’s a great one. “You ain’t worth the salt in my tears,” indeed. Great little riff too.
  23. The Fixx, “One Thing Leads To Another” – I always marveled at how tall the lead singer was. The Fixx had some great songs and this is foremost amongst them.
  24. Iron Maiden, “Flight of Icarus” – One of my favorite Maiden tracks. A re-telling the Greek myth of Icarus who flew too close to the sun, against the advice of his father, to tragic consequences. Perfect fodder for a metal song.
  25. Joe Walsh, “I Can Play That Rock & Roll” – A track so good I included it on my previous playlist about the Music Business/Show Business. And, for the record, Joe certainly can play that rock n roll. I hope he does something soon.
  26. Bob Marley & The Wailers, “Buffalo Soldier” – I can’t believe Bob left this iconic track in the vault and it was only released posthumously. He included it on his greatest hits Legend, which really helped me as a stepdad…
  27. Dio, “Rainbow In The Dark” – After two phenomenal LPs with Sabbath, Dio launched his solo career with Holy Diver and this song. Dio was such a great vocalist it’s a shame he left us so soon.
  28. Elton John, “Kiss The Bride” – This song, with it’s slightly off sounding guitar riff, has always been a favorite. Proof there was still rock n roll life left in Elton.
  29. Talking Heads, “Girlfriend Is Better” – “Burning Down The House” was the big single and was partially responsible for turning me onto the Heads, but I’ve always loved this jittery tune. “I got a girlfriend that’s better than that and she goes wherever she likes (there she goes)…” Indeed.
  30. Peter Tosh, “Johnny B. Goode” – Reggae giant Peter Tosh doing a Chuck Berry cover? Sign me up.
  31. The Kinks, “Come Dancing” – I remember the video to this track more than the track itself. Although I do believe this song was included on my playlist for wallflowers, songs about dancing.
  32. Stevie Nicks, “If Anyone Falls” – From her second, fabulous solo record The Wild Heart. I could have picked any number of songs from this album but I like this slinky, synth heavy track.
  33. Stevie Ray Vaughan, “Pride And Joy” – From Stevie Ray’s debut album. He refused to tour with Bowie for Let’s Dance so he could record his own album. I’m kinda glad he did. Although the thought of Bowie and Vaughan on tour… what a live LP that’d have been.
  34. The Police, “Every Breath You Take” – Their best song. Bone crushing emotion in this song. It made me a Police fan… this was my first Police LP purchase. And, for the record, I knew this was not a love song the moment I heard it. At the time, I could uh, relate to it.
  35. Rickie Lee Jones, “Hey, Bub” – This is another track maybe only I know. It’s a beautiful ballad, beautifully sung. Plus I can’t resist Rickie Lee’s use of 1940’s vernacular. My thanks to the person who turned me onto it.
  36. Electric Light Orchestra, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Is King” – Regrettably I once described E.L.O. as derivative of the Beatles to which my friend Doug reacted… badly. I am now forced to include them on any playlist where they have an eligible track. That said, I always liked this one.
  37. Robert Plant, “Other Arms” – “Big Log” was the big single with the cool video but I can not resist this rocker.
  38. Big Country, “In A Big Country” – I’m guessing I wasn’t crazy about Big Country in 1983. But this song has grown to be a favorite of mine.
  39. Asia, “Don’t Cry” – Their second album was a far cry from their debut but this was a great song…
  40. Joan Jett, “Fake Friends” – There’s so much great Joan Jett out there. By ’83 I was aware that I too perhaps had a few fake friends…
  41. Metallica, “Seek And Destroy” – An epic track from their epic debut. Nobody, and I mean nobody, rawked like this in 1983. They’re still at it all these years down the road with new songs like “Lux AEterna.” Looking forward to next month’s new LP!
  42. Kansas, “Fight Fire With Fire” – Local Kansas boys who did well for themselves!
  43. Jackson Browne, “For A Rocker” – Lawyers In Love and it’s title track were largely a disappointment for me. I was a big Jackson Brown fan, especially coming off “Somebody’s Baby.” I did like this song and “Tender Is The Night,” proving that even if an artist drops a dud LP, there’s always a good song or two.
  44. Elvis Costello, “Every Day I Write The Book” – One of Costello’s best tunes ever.
  45. Black Sabbath, “Trashed” – This is where I decided lead guitarist Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath was a moron. Who fires Ronnie James Dio and hires… Ian Gillan from Deep Purple? There are fans of this record and I like this song but it never took me to the heights of “Heaven And Hell”or “Sign Of The Southern Cross.”
  46. AC/DC, “Guns For Hire” – AC/DC, to me, started to hit a downward slide on this album. Luckily they pulled it all back together and released a string of great, late career records.
  47. Rainbow, “Street Of Dreams” – Meanwhile, another ex Deep Purple member, Ritchie Blackmore was hitting his stride with Rainbow.
  48. Cheap Trick, “I Can’t Take It” – Cheap Trick has always solidly delivered. This track is no exception.
  49. Stray Cats, “(She’s) Sexy + 17” – We didn’t like the Stray Cats much in ’83 but I’ve come to really dig their stripped down rockabilly. Brian Setzer is seriously one of the greats on guitar. Of course if they’d recorded this song today a few cops might drop by the studio… “Keep your hands off the kinder.”
  50. Depeche Mode, “Everything Counts” – A great earlier track from Depeche. I’m really digging “Ghosts Again,” their newest song and am looking forward to the new LP Memento Mori!
  51. Tom Waits, “In The Neighborhood” – Swordfishtrombones is one of my favorite Waits’ albums… although I’d have been hard pressed to say that in 1983. It is amazing how tastes grow and expand and change. Thank god they do.
  52. UB40, “Red Red Wine” – Perhaps a track I should have included on my playlist, Songs About Drinking.
  53. Huey Lewis & the News, “Walking On A Thin Line” – Like I said of Bryan Adams on this list before, I wasn’t a big Huey Lewis fan either. However, this track from Sports, about a Vietnam veteran struggling to acclimate back into society has a lyrical heft that I never found elsewhere in their music. Great song, great subject.
  54. The Motels, “Suddenly Last Summer” – Steamy, sexy summer song… oh and what a summer it was.
  55. Kiss, “Lick It Up” – I’m probably the only one who liked Kiss more without their make up vs with it.
  56. Motley Crue, “Too Young To Fall In Love” – I still love Motley Crue. Certainly one of the best bands to come out of the hair metal scene.
  57. The Romantics, “Talking In Your Sleep” – A song so good it was on our playlist about Sleeping too… even though I don’t sleep.
  58. Cyndi Lauper, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” – Like I said earlier, I felt I had to include this one. Lauper was so much more edgy than Madonna…
  59. Genesis, “Home By The Sea” – My favorite track from one of their biggest LPs. So many singles from this album and yet I picked a deep track?
  60. John Mellencamp, “Crumblin’ Down” – The first album where we see the name “Mellencamp” on the cover. John was clearly lamenting the false trickle down economic policies of Reagan which led to our crumbling infrastructure in America.
  61. Bob Dylan, “Sweetheart Like You” – One of my favorite ballads from Dylan. Rod did a great cover of this as well. Infidels was such a great album. “Got to be an important person to be in here, honey, Got to have done some evil deed…” The whole sitting in a seedy bar talking to a woman theme was sort of the backdrop of my 20s.
  62. Paul McCartney, “The Other Me” – I had so loved Tug Of War. Pipes of Peace and the presence of Micheal Jackson upon it were so disappointing to me… This song is a little cheesy but it works.
  63. Paul Simon, “Hearts And Bones” – A great, oft overlooked gem of an album from Simon with some of his most personal lyrics.
  64. The Rolling Stones, “She Was Hot” – I’m probably one of the only really big fans of the Stones’ Undercover album. There were many deep tracks here that I could have included but I picked this one… it was a single I think? I recall a video…
  65. Billy Idol, “Eyes Without A Face” – “Steal a car and go to Las Vegas…” Indeed.
  66. Duran Duran, “New Moon On Monday” – Even when I didn’t like Duran Duran, I liked this song.
  67. Corey Hart, “Sunglasses At Night” – Another song that was “of it’s time.” It did inspire a lot of drunk frat boys to wear their sunglasses after the sun had gone down… sigh.
  68. Robert Cray, “Phone Booth” – This was before Cray’s big break-through on Strong Persuader. I heard this song on the juke box of the Grand Emporium (if they even had a juke box?) and loved it. The image of being in a phone booth (which are all gone now), spending your last time to try and get a someone to let you come over after midnight… Well, we’ve all been there.
  69. Yes, “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” – I just posted about 90125, but what a riff, what a comeback for Yes.
  70. Ozzy Osbourne, “Bark At The Moon” – Ozzy’s first post-Randy Rhoads LP proved he could find guitar talent anywhere. Jake E Lee was the new guitar slinger here and acquits himself well. And starting in the summer of ’83 I was likely found most nights out somewhere doing exactly this… perhaps more howling at the moon than barking but it works.
  71. U2, “Sunday Bloody Sunday (Live)” – I don’t usually include live LPs on these playlists dedicated to a certain year, but Under A Blood Red Sky, the live LP that followed War can almost be equally credited for making U2 famous… Those videos of Bono with the flag on the stage at Red Rocks… iconic.
  72. Siouxsie And The Banshees, “Dear Prudence” – One of my favorite Beatles’ covers. I will freely admit it was the Rock Chick who turned me onto Siouxsie. Oddly, I always got her mixed up with that singer in Bow Wow Wow. Proof I’m daft?
  73. Eurythmics, “Here Comes The Rain Again” – We end where we began… with a song I included on my playlist, All the Rain Songs. This is such a brilliant song about a break up… “Here comes the rain again, Falling on my head like a memory, Falling on my head like a new emotion… is it raining with you?”

There it is! Our 1983-dedicated playlist. Again, it’s long, one of our longest. Put it on, hit “random,” and let it shuffle through the music. You might even pour something strong for the listen. If there’s something you don’t dig, skip it. But I think for all of you who were old enough to own a clock/radio in ’83 are going to like most of this rock n roll. I consider all of my playlists to be “living things.” I add songs suggested by readers to every playlist I put out there. In the end they’re really “our” playlists not mine. I’m just the music obsessive who puts them together. If I could to do things differently in 1983, I certainly would change almost everything… but not the music.

Cheers! Take care of each other out there…

The B&V Rock Hall of Fame 2023 Ballot Selections

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It’s February 1st and so that means the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio has announced this year’s nominees for the 2023 class. The Rock Chick actually surprised me with a trip to the Rock Hall a few years back and I was very impressed with it and pleasantly surprised by Cleveland. They’ve got some great Lebanese restaurants in that town. I know that a lot of people consider the Rock Hall to be as irrelevant as Rolling Stone magazine these days. Most people don’t care about the Rock Hall, and I get it. It was Ray Davies who said, when the Kinks were inducted into the Rock Hall, “Seeing everybody here tonight, it makes me realize that rock and roll has become respectable. What a bummer.” I keep a running list of acts that would be in the BourbonAndVinyl Hall of Fame (and perhaps some day I’ll write about that) because I feel the actual Hall is so deeply flawed.

And as much as I have maligned the Rock Hall’s nominees in the past – The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame 2018 Inductees: Getting It Wrong, Again – and lamented how many worthy rock acts who should be in the Hall, who aren’t inducted – The B&V List of Artists Who Really Should Be In the Rock Hall of Fame – I can’t help myself, I look for the announcement of the nominees every year. It seems when it comes to the Rock Hall, like Zeppelin sang, “I can’t quit you baby.” As a huge fan of this music I feel it’s incumbent upon me to vote every year like I’m voting for President or Governor, like there’s something important riding on it. The fan vote is mostly symbolic but I feel like if the fans vote the elitist journalist cabal who run the thing might hear us and actually put some of the great, deserving bands who aren’t in the Hall, into the Hall. And besides, as most long time readers know, if asked my opinion on a rock n roll question, um, I’m going to weigh in.

I actually think the Rock Hall has selected a great list of nominees. It’s a great diverse group of artists from 70s soul (The Spinners) to 80s pop (Cyndi Lauper and George Micheal) to Hip Hop (A Tribe Called Quest and Missy Elliott) to Heavy Metal (Iron Maiden) to 90s rock (Rage Against The Machine and Soundgarden).  Here are the 2023 nominees:

  • A Tribe Called Quest
  • Kate Bush
  • Sheryl Crow
  • Missy Elliott
  • Iron Maiden
  • Joy Division/New Order
  • Cyndi Lauper
  • George Michael
  • Willie Nelson
  • Rage Against The Machine
  • Soundgarden
  • The Spinners
  • The White Stripes
  • Warren Zevon

I can’t tell you how glad I am to see Warren Zevon on this list. I’ve been clamoring for his nomination for years to anybody who will listen… and well, most people don’t listen… You can cast your fan vote at: https://vote.rockhall.com/en/ and I hope you’ll vote as well!

Here were my votes, in order. You’re allowed 5. You can apparently vote once a day, which is extreme even for me.

  1. Warren Zevon – I have waited years to see this man’s name on the ballot. I jumped at the chance to vote for him. We posted about Zevon’s essential albums several years ago.
  2. The White Stripes – One of the best bands of all time. I hope both Jack and Meg White show up for the induction. If you haven’t gotten into the White Stripes, may I suggest their Greatest Hits.
  3. Soundgarden – I saw Soundgarden in concert for the final time on their next to last concert prior to the sad and untimely death of Chris Cornell. These guys should be a slam-dunk induction.
  4. Rage Against The Machine – I love Rage and even love Audioslave that featured Tom Morello, Tim Comerford, and Brad Wilk from Rage with the aforementioned Chris Cornell. Hard rocking and topical, these guys are one amazing band.
  5. Willie Nelson – It was a toss up between Willie and Iron Maiden, which is a sentence I never thought I’d type. In the end, with Willie getting up there in years, I felt I should cast my vote for him.

There are a ton of great nominees this year. And, I thought it was a fun break from the daily grind of my corporate masters to go out and cast my vote. I just look forward to seeing some of these performances at the ceremony. I feel like this post has been “A public service announcement with guitars…” as the Clash sang…

Cheers!

The Very Old, Very False Myth That The Devil Isn’t In The Details, He’s In The Rock N Roll Music

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I was reading something the other day. It was a discussion of all the preposterous rock n roll rumors that have propagated over the years. Naturally my first thought was that myth that Zeppelin was booed off stage in Kansas City. That of course led me to the old rumor that Van Halen were actually Kiss without their make up. Gene Simmons financed their demo tape and on the debut album, Van Halen, they thank him which started the whole story. This was way before Kiss took their make up off on MTV. I know my friend Brewster was incensed by that rumor. He knew Ace Frehley couldn’t play guitar like Eddie. The only preposterous story I ever heard that seemed like it might be true was the story about a woman being murdered and recorded in the background during the recording of “Love Rollercoaster” by the Ohio Players. That primal scream a couple of minutes into the song used to scare the crap out of me.

The preposterous rumor that didn’t scare me when I was a teenager was the oldest story in the book. The myth that Satan was lurking behind all this rock n roll I loved. If anything those kind of rumors might have fueled my desire to hear more rock n roll. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not Satanist but neither is rock n roll in any real sense. Of course I have to admit the cover art on the Dio fronted Black Sabbath album Mob Rules did give my mother pause…”What the Hell is this you’re listening to?” I read one time that there was a spike in teen smoking after the they put the “The Surgeon General has determined that cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health” warning on the packs. We are collectively drawn toward danger and darkness. We thrive on risk. If they outlaw cigarettes only outlaws will smoke… or something like that? I will say, I think the professor in Animal House played by Donald Sutherland is right… The Devil is the most interesting character in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Who doesn’t love a well written villain? Paging Hannibal Lecter… Again, I’m not decrying religion of any nature… but “God makes me nervous when you get him indoors.”

The whole “Satan” thing really reached preposterous levels when I was in junior high. Supposedly, Rush, who had a pentagram in their logo actually stood for Ruled Under Satan’s Hand. It was said they held Satanic rituals in the arenas after concerts. The more I’ve learned about the guys in Rush over the years, they’re the nicest people in music this side of Dave Grohl. The most Satanic thing Rush ever did was brew their own micro beer. They said the same thing about Kiss. It supposedly stood for Knights In Satan’s Service. I mean, come on? The only thing that Kiss was in service of was commerce. Those guys had Kiss Koffins for sale. I’m willing to say that Ace might been a little dark but Gene Simmons was all about the benjamins. When I finally stopped listening to these rumors were when someone told me the exact same story – Satanic rituals after concerts – about… Journey. I was like, Steve Perry? The man has the voice of an angel? Maybe Satan was who he was singing to in “Don’t Stop Believin’?” Sorry folks this is where I get off the Satan bus.

Perhaps the first time the Satan myth popped up was about legendary bluesman Robert Johnson, pictured above. The story goes that he was an average to weak guitar player. He supposedly went down to the crossroads where he met the Devil, who tuned his guitar. After that his playing was amazing. It’s kind of a take on the whole Faustian legend if you ask me. Faust sold his soul to the Devil for ultimate knowledge and pleasure. After this alleged meeting with Satan or possibly Papa Legba, Johnson became quite the legend. I’m guessing the truth is a little different. Likely preachers, upset by the effect Johnson’s music and guitar playing was having on people – especially women – decided there must be demonic forces here. If the pretty woman in town won’t sleep with the preacher but will with the guy singing “Sweet Home Chicago,” the Devil must be at work here. And believe me, Robert was popular with the ladies… The preachers finally began to decry Johnson and blues music as the work of the Devil. And like that cigarette warning label, it probably helped his career.

It was a similar case in the 50s. When what we now call rock n roll sprung up it terrified the conservative establishment. Those folks thrive on fear in the masses. Fear divides us and keeps us docile to the powers that be. Preachers and elder statesmen in the 50s were decrying this new music as the work of the Devil to scare parents. It worked, to a degree. Frightened parents tried to keep their kids away from that primal music. Again I think they were particularly frightened of how women were reacting. Most of our history revolves around keeping women down, if you think about it. Why else would they insist that the Ed Sullivan Show only film the King from the waist up? Elvis the Pelvis as he was known. Anything that sexual has to be bad… at least it did in 50s, Eisenhower America where the female orgasm was still a myth. I’m beginning to think the Devil is the tool of the establishment. If anything parents trying to keep rock n roll away from their kids, making it seem more illicit, made the rebellious music take off like they couldn’t imagine. I know Frank Sinatra was dismayed. By the time the 60s hit, rock n roll helped lead a youth rebellion.

I remember Zeppelin was supposedly Satanic. Anybody that big had to be “in league with Lucifer.” I knew a girl in Arkansas who took my friend Doug and I out to a spot outside of town that she claimed was frequented by Devil worshipers. She said they all sat around listening to Zeppelin. I couldn’t help but think, why not Sabbath? Anyway, these “Devil worshipers” had written “Serve Satin” on the rock wall. I was like, “Satin? Like the sheets?” The young lady said they misspelled Satan’s name as “Satin” because it furthered their blasphemy. Sigh. Maybe they should have furthered their education to work on their spelling? Zeppelin’s lead guitar player Jimmy Page was into the occult and owned the former house of occultist Aleister Crowley. They had songs like “Black Dog” and “In My Time Of Dying” that scared people. This was the 70s where films like The Exorcist and Omen were current hits. There was always scary black dogs running around chewing up the good guys, Rottweilers if I’m not mistaken. Doug’s mother was fond of the movie Devil Dog, Hound of Hell. It was Zeppelin’s iconic track “Stairway To Heaven” that got the attention of everybody. Supposedly if you spun the record backwards you could hear them say “Here’s to Sweet Satan.” I will admit, when we did this when I was in high school I thought I could hear the word Satan but I think it was a coincidence. I don’t think it was planned. I remember jumping up on the couch in fear but I’m a lover not a religious crusader… yeah, I was scared. ELO made fun of it by doing a backward masking thing on “Fire On High.” When played backwards it said, “The music is reversible but time is not.” I don’t think, despite Page’s dark bent, that Zeppelin had anything to do with Satan.

It was Black Sabbath who realized the value of adopting that whole Evil thing. Instead of running away from it they realized that calling themselves Black Sabbath and having scary album artwork could actually work in their favor. Embrace the scary evil and it draws people in. So many heavy metal bands have adopted the same stance. It puts them outside the norms of society and makes them seem like outlaws and/or outcasts which is a vibe all teenagers can gravitate toward it. Let’s face it folks, Satan Sells. That’s why you’ve got Motley Crue singing “Shout At The Devil,” and people like Rob Zombie out there doing whatever you call what he does. We used to laugh at Iron Maiden and their mascot Eddie. We called them, amongst others, “Scary Monster Rock.” But you know what, they were the ones laughing all the way to the bank. The Devil is actually an accountant in a three-piece suit.

The next time you hear your grandmother or some preacher telling you that rock music – if anybody even remembers rock music anymore – is the tool of the Devil, please laugh that off. It’s the most preposterous thing in the world. Anytime the establishment wants to scare you away from something, run toward it. I’m going to spend my weekend cranking Iggy Pop’s new album Every Loser and anything by Jeff Beck, who just passed, that I can get my hands off. Because Jeff Beck played that Devil’s guitar better than almost anybody out there.

Be safe out there but break some rules this weekend. Be naughty because it feels so nice.

Cheers!

Playlist…We Kick Off 2023 By… Looking Back 50 Years – 1973

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I know we’re already a few days into this brand spanking new year and I may be late on this, but let me wish all of you a Happy New Year! It’s 2023 which when I was kid would have sounded like a date from the reruns of Star Trek we all watched religiously after school… I can almost hear Captain Kirk saying, “Star Date 2023… and I’ve just met a captivating green woman…” I don’t know if other families are like mine when it comes to Christmas, but right around Thanksgiving the Rock Chick suddenly morphs into Mrs. Claus. A tree pops up fully decorated and there are lights strung everywhere. Suddenly gone from the stereo are the latest LPs from the Cult or Bush replaced by (gads) Mariah Carey and Bing Crosby. Xmas is a terribly frightful time for me even if I am a reformed Grinch. I only like a little of the Xmas music…so I suffer most of it. But once the relatives have gone home and our daughter heads to the airport the Rock Chick shuts Xmas down like somebody threw a light switch or a referee has blown a whistle. Down comes the tree and the lights. The forest of poinsettias gets mowed down like somebody struck oil in the living room. That’s one thing about the Rock Chick, she’s not sentimental. Once Christmas passes, it’s pull off the red, green and white band-aid time.

Then we enter that weird week between Xmas and New Year’s Day. The Rock Chick, who literally single-handedly does everything for Xmas, sort of collapses in exhaustion. I wander around the house wondering which day of the week it is. It’s during this time that I go into a deep fog of heavy reflection. Typically that produces my year end “best of” list for the previous 12 months and 2022 was no exception. But of course the range of my reflection goes well beyond just music. I ruminate over tumblers of dark, murky liquids about everything. I think most people get a little reflective during that week between the holidays…nothing to do at work, might as well ruminate. There’s nothing that reminds us more of the ticking of the clock than the end of one year and the beginning of the next. As Jackson Browne famously sang, “I’ve been aware of the time going by, they say in the end it’s a wink of an eye.” Questions like “What did I accomplish this year?” or “How far have I come in life?” are naturally rolling around our heads during that time.

Then New Year’s Day hits and everyone is slightly hungover and it’s time to look forward towards the future. People start asking different questions like “What will I accomplish this year?” or “How can I improve myself this year?” and so on. This is the time that everybody starts making New Year’s Resolutions. I usually do the dreaded “Dry January,” but not this year. Dry January was easy to do when the Kansas City Chiefs weren’t competitive. Now that they’re in the playoffs most January’s it’s virtually impossible for me to stay completely sober down the stretch. I have to do my part to help them win, which typically means consuming beer and pacing in front of the TV.  I considered giving up coffee but… why? I have noticed my local gym is now packed with new people and will likely remain so until mid-February when all of this New Year/New Me mania wears off.

While most people start thinking about the future I can’t help myself, I’m always a little stuck in that reflective mode in January, looking backward. I’ve come to realize over the years that the only thing I can change about the past is how I look at it or how I react to it which helps frame it (or perhaps tame it is more appropriate). Naturally all of this reflection eventually leads me back to music. A couple of years ago (2021) I read an article about 1971 being the greatest year ever in music. Many of the albums released in ’71 were celebrating 50th anniversaries and I have to admit it was an amazing year for music. I actually put together a 1971 Playlist culled from those landmark LPs released that year and really enjoyed doing so. Last year, 2022, I looked back again to 1972 (complete with playlist) and again, I really enjoyed it. 1971 to me was really the last gasp of the era we identify as the 60’s and 1972, to me anyway, was the real birth of the 70s. I don’t subscribe to the theory that when the calendar goes from a year that ends in “9” to a year that ends in “0” music and culture just change on a dime. There’s usually a slow fade of one decade and a slow blossoming of the new.

In that spirit, I thought I’d look back 50 years again, this time to 1973. Let me be real clear though, in 1973 I was still counting years in single digits. I had very few clear memories from ’71 or even ’72. 1973 is the first year I can admit to remembering… well, I remember hearing some of the songs on this list anyway. So much of this music from 1973 was in high rotation when I started listening to music years later, it’s almost iconic. I joked when listening to all that great music from 1971 I needed a leather, fringe jacket ala David Crosby to satisfy my hippy Jones. Listening to music from ’73 makes me remember riding around in mom’s green Ford with the AM radio cranked. What I’d need to celebrate my 70s Jones would probably be a polyester leisure suit that curiously matches what my brother has on.

1973 was such a tumultuous time for the world. It started off on a bummer when Nixon was inaugurated for his second term. Even then Watergate hung over his Administration. Later in the year we saw what is now known as the Saturday Night Massacre where Nixon fired his Attorney General and Deputy AG in order to circumvent the rule of law. Fun times. OPEC started an oil embargo and I remember seeing long lines at gas stations. The Vietnam Peace was still being negotiated in Paris. Thug Spiro Agnew resigned as the VP of the U.S. and was replaced with clumsy Gerald Ford. Pinochet came to power in Chile to tragic consequences. There was a war in the Middle East on Yom Kippur. George Foreman beat Joe Frazier and became the heavy weight champ… Ali was watching and working up his rope-a-dope act even then I suppose. The Godfather, one of my absolute favorite movies came out that year. I still like to say, when something’s gone wrong, “You have to answer for Santino, Carlo.” We’d shifted away from the hippy good vibes of the 60s and the Me Generation took root. It all sounds like a drag… at least we had some great music in 1973.

There were a lot of great, legendary artists who put out their debut albums in 1973: Springsteen (who put out 2 LPs that year), Aerosmith, Tom Waits, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Queen. Talk about a list of artists who shaped the 70s, that’s it. Many artists put out 2 LPs in ’73: Elton John, Al Green, Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac (in pre-Buckingham/Nicks configuration), Bob Marley and Bowie. We got great LPs from huge acts like Zeppelin and the Who which didn’t happen in ’72. All four ex-Beatles put out solo LPs in ’73 as did other acts who emerged from 60s bands: Paul Simon, Gram Parsons (posthumously), David Ruffin, and Stephen Stills (with Manassas). The world discovered Bob Marley & the Wailers as they started their time with Island Records and went international. While many may crinkle their noses at 1973 as compared to ’71 or ’72, I have to admit there were so many great albums put out in that year I had over 110 songs to start this thing. I had to make really hard choices to winnow it down to these 70 tracks because as wonderful as my pithy comments on the tracks are, no one wants to read 110 song comments… That many great albums has gotta say something about the quality of the music from ’73. And I didn’t even include anything from Neil Young’s Time Fades Away or Bob Seger’s Back In ’72 because neither of those albums are available on Spotify…

As usual I based this list on tracks from LPs released in ’73. If a song was released in ’72 and reigned the charts in ’73 you won’t find it here. I’m into LPs. There are a few exceptions – singles I couldn’t resist putting on here – but they were all released in 1973. I tend to gravitate toward deep tracks but for ’73 I put more “hit” songs on here than usual. You can find this playlist on Spotify under “BourbonAndVinyl. 1973” and as always if you have additions you’d like me to make, mention them in the comments and I’ll add them on the Spotify list. I always look at these playlists as “our” playlists. I always play these on “shuffle.”

  1. Bruce Springsteen, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., “Spirit In The Night” – From the Boss’ debut. A group of youngsters go out to a local lake and party.
  2. Aerosmith, Aerosmith, “Dream On” – This song, which didn’t really get popular until a few years later when Aerosmith broke big in 75/76 may have invented the power ballad.
  3. Little Feat, Dixie Chicken, “Dixie Chicken” – I love Little Feat and this is their most famous song. Boy meets girl, girl leaves with a guitar player… a story as old as time.
  4. Elton John, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player, “Elderberry Wine” – I went with this deep track that I’d also used on our Drinking Playlist because it’s one of my favorite Elton deep tracks. I like the line, “the bottle went round like a woman down south, passed on from hand to hand.”
  5. Gram Parsons, G.P., “She” – Gram Parsons, a Southerner, writing about his mama and how she could sing.
  6. Deep Purple, Who Do We Think We Are, “Woman From Tokyo” – One of my favorites from Deep Purple.
  7. Alice Cooper, Billion Dollar Babies, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” – I could have picked about any track off this album, my favorite from Alice Cooper. It does sort of capture the Alice persona.
  8. The Stooges, Raw Power, “Search And Destroy” – Iggy Pop and the Stooges with an iconic hard rock song that helped inspire a lot of punk bands.
  9. Dr. John, In The Right Place, “Right Place Wrong Time” – Sadly, we lost Dr. John recently (2020). B.B. King later did a nice cover of this. I have literally always been in the right place at the wrong time.
  10. Dusty Springfield, Cameo, “Tupelo Honey” – Dusty covering Van Morrison. Not as epic as the original but still a great song.
  11. David Ruffin, David Ruffin, “(If Lovin’ You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right” – The former front man of the Temptations and one of my favorite singers. Rod Stewart covered this song later in the 70s and hearing this you can absolutely hear the influence.
  12. Pink Floyd, Dark Side Of The Moon, “Money” – The album that changed everything for Pink Floyd. Iconic.
  13. The Doobie Brothers, The Captain And Me, “Dark Eyed Cajun Lady” – I went with this deep track vs the myriad hits on the album as it’s just a great country rock track.
  14. Tom Waits, Closing Time, “Ol’ 55” – I love this LP, but I’m partial to debut LPs. This version is so much better than the one by the Eagles done a few years later.
  15. The Byrds, The Byrds, “Full Circle” – From the final reunion of the original members of the Byrds. It was a dud commercially but this is a great Gene Clark song.
  16. Led Zeppelin, Houses Of The Holy, “Over The Hills And Far Away” – Probably the best known track from the album. I almost went with “The Ocean” a favorite of the Rock Chick.
  17. Faces, Ooh La La, “Cindy Incidentally” – The Faces’ last gasp. It was the single, although the title track should have been. This LP is much better than it’s reputation.
  18. Fleetwood Mac, Penguin, “Remember Me” – A really pretty track from the late Christine McVie.
  19. Johnny Winter, Still Alive And Well, “Silver Train” – Johnny shaking his magic blues dust on a Stones track. Great Stones cover.
  20. J. Geils Band, Bloodshot, “Give It To Me” – This track starts off with a reggae vibe and turns into a guitar jam. It’s loose and perfect.
  21. David Bowie, Aladdin Sane, “The Jean Genie” – A song I used to nickname my good friend Jeanne… Aladdin Sane gets attention for it’s iconic cover, but trust me, pull the record out and put it on the turntable. I almost picked “Panic In Detroit” from this one.
  22. Bob Marley & The Wailers, Catch A Fire, “Stir It Up” – If you haven’t explored Marley any deeper than the greatest hits Legend, you need to. Start with this LP.
  23. Eagles, Desperado, “Tequila Sunrise” – From the second album. I left the title track for Linda Ronstadt below.
  24. Stephen Stills (Manassas), Down The Road, “Isn’t It About Time” – The second Manassas LP gets overlooked but this is a great Stills tune.
  25. Wings (Paul McCartney), Red Rose Speedway, “My Love” – From the first of 2 albums in ’73. Paul waxing on about his love does him good.
  26. Al Green, Call Me, “Call Me (Come Back Home)” – Even when he’s singing a break up song, Al sounds happy. One of his best tracks here.
  27. The Marshall Tucker Band, The Marshall Tucker Band, “Can’t You See” – Still one of my favorite train songs.
  28. Paul Simon, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, “Kodachrome” –  I can close my eyes when I hear this and I’m in the back seat of mom’s car as she careens through traffic.
  29. George Harrison, Living In The Material World, “Give Me Love, (Give Me Peace On Earth)” – If you remove the ex-Beatle expectations Harrison faced, this album would have been much bigger. It’s fantastic a real gem.
  30. Joe Walsh, The Smoker You Drink The Player You Get, “Rocky Mountain Way” – One of the greatest rock anthems of all time.
  31. Sly & The Family Stone, Fresh, “If You Want Me To Stay” – I’m not a huge Sly fan but I’ve always loved this track.
  32. Bob Dylan, Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid (Soundtrack), “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” – Dylan’s iconic song later covered by Eric Clapton, Guns N Roses, and Warren Zevon to name a few.
  33. Queen, Queen, “Keep Yourself Alive” – I forget how hard Queen rocked in those early days.
  34. Grand Funk Railroad, We’re An American Band, “We’re An American Band” – A little patriotic rock n roll!
  35. ZZ Top, Tres Hombres, “La Grange” – From their best LP.
  36. New York Dolls, New York Dolls, “Personality Crisis” – I love the New York Dolls. This is basically early American punk rock.
  37. Steely Dan, Countdown To Ecstacy, “My Old School” – One of Steely’s best tracks from their second album. It’s based on a true story when Messrs Becker and Fagan were in college.
  38. Golden Earring, Moontan, “Radar Love” – This is one of those rock anthems that grabbed me in ’73 even before I’d started listening to music. I think this band had only 2 hits and this one is my favorite.
  39. Stevie Wonder, Innervisions, “Higher Ground” – Later covered by the Red Hot Chili Peppers which the Rock Chick likes better. Don’t tell her but I’m partial to the original.
  40. Lynyrd Skynyrd, (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd), “Gimme Three Steps” – Great song about talking to the wrong woman in a bar.
  41. The Rolling Stones, Goats Head Soup, “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” – I could have gone with “Angie” but we’ve all heard that one 100 times.
  42. The Allman Brothers Band, Brothers And Sisters, “Jessica” – Their finest instrumental. I love when the piano solo kicks in, played by Chuck Leavell who later played with Eric Clapton and the Stones. I could have gone with “Ramblin’ Man” but this is a personal favorite.
  43. Marvin Gaye, Let’s Get It On, “Let’s Get It On” – Marvin has left behind the worldy concerns of 1971’s What’s Going On for more…temporal concerns.
  44. Van Morrison, Hard Nose The Highway, “Warm Love” – A great song from an uneven album.
  45. Bruce Springsteen, The Wild, The Innocent & The E-Street Shuffle, “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” – An epic that became a concert staple for years. This is my absolute favorite Springsteen album.
  46. Thin Lizzy, Vagabonds Of The Western World, “Whiskey In A Jar” – Thin Lizzy never got their due. This track was later covered by Metallica.
  47. Linda Ronstadt, Don’t Cry Now, “Desperado” – It was Ronstadt’s cover of “Desperado” that helped make the song a hit for the Eagles.
  48. Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, “Bennie And The Jets” – From his second legendary LP of the year. I could have picked almost any track on the album but I’m partial to this one for sentimental reasons.
  49. Fleetwood Mac, Mystery To Me, “Hypnotized” – This one is a great track from Bob Welch.
  50. Grateful Dead, Wake Of The Flood, “Eyes Of The World” – I had to have some Dead on here. It’s 1973.
  51. Bob Marley & The Wailers, Burnin’, “Get Up, Stand Up” – I may like Burnin’ even better than Catch A Fire.
  52. Montrose, Montrose, “Bad Motor Scooter” – The world’s introduction to Sammy Hagar. A young lad is afraid of his girlfriend’s dad but still wants her to come out for a motorcycle ride.
  53. Steve Miller Band, The Joker, “The Joker” – A song that takes me back to college… but those records are sealed.
  54. Peter Frampton, Frampton’s Camel, “Do You Feel Like We Do” – Frampton never seemed to find the magic in the studio but the more I go back and listen to original versions of tunes that we all heard live for the first time on Frampton Comes Alive the more I like them.
  55. Rick Derringer, All American Boy, “Rock And Roll, Hoochie Koo” – A song he originally did when he was in the Johnny Winter band.
  56. Jackson Browne, For Everyman, “These Days” – Jackson’s 2nd album was mostly comprised of songs he’d written for other people prior to getting his own record contract. “These Days” had been covered by Nico and Gregg Allman and is truly one of his greatest songs.
  57. Gregg Allman, Laid Back, “Midnight Rider” – A complete re-imagining of the original. I probably like the band version better but I love this version as well.
  58. Ringo Starr, Ringo, “Photograph” – It’s nice to think that Ringo used to have hits.
  59. J. Geils Band, Ladies Invited, “The Lady Makes Demands” – Another great song from J Geils Band. They were just too loose and groovy in the early days to hit it bit. Too bad, it’s all great music.
  60. Paul McCartney & Wings, Live And Let Die Soundtrack, “Live And Let Die” – The name is Bond, James Bond.
  61. Billy Joel, Piano Man, “Piano Man” – From his second album which is considered his debut by many. Autobiographical.
  62. John Lennon, Mind Games, “Mind Games” – Lennon’s solo work is often called “uneven,” but I love this song.
  63. Alice Cooper, Muscle Of Love, “Teenage Lament ’74” – A ballad from their second LP of the year.
  64. Electric Light Orchestra, On The Third Day, “Showdown” – I like to give my friend Doug shit about being an ELO fan but I love this song. A lover telling his lady, “there’s gonna be a showdown” baby. Sadly been there.
  65. Black Sabbath, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” – Such a great, heavy tune. Their first five LPs are perfect.
  66. Wings (Paul McCartney), Band On The Run, “Jet” – Again, I could have picked any song on this album. I just like this one.
  67. The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, “If You Wanna Get To Heaven” – I live too close to the Ozarks not to have included this one. I took this as gospel… so I raised a little Hell. Well, maybe a lot of Hell.
  68. Sweet, Released as a single, “Ballroom Blitz” – A great great single. Iconic.
  69. T. Rex, Released as a single, “20th Century Boy” – I’ve only recently gotten on the T Rex bandwagon but I think this is one of their best songs outside of “Bang A Gong.”
  70. The Who, Quadrophenia, “Love Reign O’er Me” – The perfect end for this playlist and the album it came from. I remember feeling this way once upon a time…

There it is folks, 1973 in song. Again, if I missed one of your favorites – and believe me I had to remove a bunch of songs and this is still my longest playlist ever – just mention your tune in the comments and I’ll add it to the playlist.

Again, Happy New Year and I hope that 2023 is a serene and happy year for everybody.

Playlist: Happy Labor Day Weekend – Songs For All The “Working Stiffs” & The Saga Of My Summer Jobs

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*Image above taken from the Internet and likely copyright

I can’t believe it’s already Labor Day Weekend. I guess Steve Miller was right, “time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future.” This coming Monday is Labor Day, a day to celebrate Labor and working people and is generally a day of vacation for people. Labor Day was established as a Federal holiday in the U.S. as the first Monday in September in 1894. Prior to that 30 states had an official state holiday honoring Labor. Oregon was the first state to declare a state holiday for Labor Day so good on them. Most other nations celebrate Labor on May Day, or May 1st. It’s comforting to know that we pause as a nation and celebrate working people. For a long time I thought Labor Day was just a holiday that signaled the end of summer. I mean, how else would local municipalities know it was time to close the city pool? Memorial Day is the start of summer in the U.S. and Labor Day wraps it up.

I’m a white collar guy now but I still consider myself a working class dog, as Rick Springfield once sang. As awful as my current job can be at times it beats being a coal miner but then I’m claustrophobic. I have the utmost respect for Labor – it’s working people who built this country. Organized Labor helped build the middle class in America between 1932 and 1980. Even though I’m now merely a traveling salesman (see playlist) I still think back to my younger, high school/college days when I had to work every summer to pay for school. I had a number of difficult, dirty jobs.

My first job ever lasted exactly two weeks. There had never been a discussion at the house with my father, nicknamed The Hard Guy, telling me I had to get a job. My buddies were starting to get jobs and they always had walking around money for illicit beer purchases and vinyl records. Ever ambitious I felt I had to follow suit and applied for and got a job at my local Dairy Queen. While the surprised Hard Guy muttered approvingly when I got the job, the owner/manager was a sociopath with eyes that looked in two directions at once. He was not a nice man. Were it today, I would have suspected meth amphetamine abuse. The heat and grease that hung over the grille while I attempted to cook burgers and fries did wonders for my acne. I looked like a burn victim. Finally after the boss descended into a screaming fit because I didn’t clean up something properly I decided the culinary arts were perhaps not my chosen path.

Despite that, my next endeavor was as a busboy at a steak joint in the mall. I wore a white shirt, a bow tie and a leather tunic. I was the fastest busboy they had. I could clean a table in the blink of an eye. Although I must admit I started having nightmares that I was trundling my cart out into the dining room and all the tables were covered in dirty dishes… I’d wake up sweating from trying to dream bus tables… dreams are crazy. Perhaps that was a sign I wasn’t going to handle stress well. The steak joint had the advantage of actually having female employees. I met a bunch of girls who went to different high schools than I did which was an advantage, believe me. The steak joint was managed by a bunch of reprobates which may explain why they’d only seem to hire pretty girls… The cops came into the restaurant during a lunch rush one Saturday and arrested one of the assistant managers… he’d found an abandoned car along the highway and allegedly stole the license plate. We never saw him again. We would typically spend our breaks at the restaurant on night shifts standing in the walk-in cooler drinking beer and talking trash to the hostesses. It was a tough job but someone had to do it. I worked at that place on and off even through my early college years.

While those indoor jobs were fine and dandy there wasn’t much over the “minimal” wage in those jobs. The real money lie in working outside. My buddy Brewster was always an enterprising young lad and he stumbled upon a yard crew mowing an apartment lawn and asked the guy for a job. The next thing I knew, Brewster got me hired and after school every day I’d jump in his car and we’d go mow lawns until it got dark. The guy paid like $5/hour vs the $3.50 an hour I was getting at the mall. I was in the tall cotton now. Never mind the fact that I ruined a number of pairs of blue jeans turning them green. Mom wasn’t thrilled but the Hard Guy seemed to enjoy those evenings at the house while I was out working a little more. The outfit was known as Lewis’ Quality Lawn Service (name changed to protect the innocent). His hiring practices were somewhat suspect… I’m pretty sure there were more than one convict on the crew. At one house in the rich neighborhood we serviced, an old lady approached Bob (the owner/foreman), Brewster and I and asked “Who took a shit in my window well?” Sure enough…someone did. Brewster always said it was a guy named Sanchez (name changed to protect the truly innocent) but I wouldn’t put it past him to do such at thing. Brewster, if you’re out there, time to confess.

It was in that lawn mowing job I began to realize the class system in the U.S. was alive and well. One house we mowed, the guy had a white Rolls Royce and he’d park it in the circle drive out in front of the house all the time to show it off, I guess? It was a Friday and one of the neighbors was throwing a party, merely houses away just down the street. I mean, even I could walk down there to the party and I’d been mowing lawns all day. The son of the Rolls owner was about my age. And he came out front cradling an iced tea, watched us mow for a second and then yelled in the screen door, “Daaaadddy are we taking the Rolls to the party?” I was like dude, c’mon, don’t be such a douche bag, you can walk. Or at least offer us some damn iced tea. Ends up the family took the Rolls to the party. I’m surprised they didn’t ask me to drive… probably because I was sweaty and dirty. It was tough work but man what a tan I had.

Finally, in college my best bud Doug saved me from hustling to find a job and got me work with his dad’s company. They built and resurfaced tennis courts. It was hot sweaty work on sizzling asphalt but it paid well and again, the tan was spectacular and that’s how I really judged these things. I typically worked with a guy named Howard and a couple of bikers he’d hired… well until one of the bikers was killed, but that’s another story… Dave was a nice guy and I was truly sad about that… Anyway, when I took the gig I thought I’d be working with Doug on a more regular basis. I love the man but frankly when it came to physical labor I realized he was insane. He would describe days where he put in 12 hours or more as “Iron Days.” I would describe 12 hour-plus days as a “Nightmare.” My job was to work hard for 8 to 10 hours and then go spend that money on beer. Or better yet, shower and take my girlfriend to the Motel 6, but those records are sealed.

The worst part of the tennis court gig was working with wet cement and this paint that was called, I believe, Plexipave. You mixed the Plexipave with sand and cement and if you got a dab of it on you it turned hard on your legs enveloping your leg hair. I’d come home with sandy, hard, green lumps on my legs. My mom would make me take off my work clothes in the garage. I’d wrap myself in a towel and head up to sit in a bath tub – and I was strictly a shower guy – so I could soak the Plexipave off my leg hair instead of tearing the hair out by the root. I don’t know how women get waxed… it’s painful. The struggle is real and beauty is hard, ladies.

Despite all of that pain, sunburn, acne and burns from a hot grille, I wouldn’t trade one day of my checkered history as a working stiff. Those were glorious summers either at the mall or in some giant rich guy’s yard, mowing or resurfacing his tennis court. I actually ended up at a party at one of the houses we mowed… I kept thinking, what if she found out I mowed her dad’s lawn. There’s something to be said about hard work and how good it feels at the end of the day to crack a cold beer and realize that you’d accomplished something. There was no worrying about the job at night – save for those crazy busboy nightmares. It was a glorious time.

I felt it was essential to honor all of you out there doing actual hard work with a Labor Day Playlist. It can be found currently on Spotify under “BourbonAndVinyl.net Labor Day” (I’m looking at moving off Spotify, finally, in support of Neil Young). Here are some of my favorite songs about working and working people. I’m not a “9 to 5” or “Take This Job And Shove It” guy, so those songs aren’t here. It works playing straight through or on shuffle, dealer’s choice. It’s not meant to be exhaustive and if you have a song you’d like me to add, please put it in the comment section. As you grille hot dogs and hamburgers and drink some cold beer this weekend celebrating the unofficial end of summer, enjoy cranking up these tunes!

  1. The Beatles, “Hard Days Night” – Always great to kick off with a Beatles track. “I’ve been workin’ like a dog…” I’ve always liked the Beatles but ever since the Get Back documentary, Let It Be box set and the roof top concert came out it seems to have reignited my Beatles fandom.
  2. The Clash, “Career Opportunities” – “Career opportunities, the ones that never knocks.” I can relate to that. I am currently at the zenith of a mediocre career.
  3. Dire Straits, “Money For Nothing” – Where two working guys delivering appliances envy the lifestyle of Rock Stars in videos. So 80s…
  4. Huey Lewis & The News, “Workin’ For a Living” – Rare that I’d turn to Huey and his News but couldn’t resist this track. “I’m takin’ what their giving as I’m workin’ for a living.” Truth.
  5. Styx, “Blue Collar Man” – As I’ve grown older I’ve grown more conflicted about Styx but this Tommy Shaw tune – like most of the stuff he wrote – is a little tougher and more guitar forward.
  6. Lou Reed & John Cale, “Work” – This is the weirdest track here. But I couldn’t resist Lou Reed singing about Andy Warhol lecturing him on his work ethic. Even artists have to put in the sweat.
  7. Bob Marley & the Wailers, “Work” – Everyone should explore Marley’s work beyond just the greatest hits compilation Legend. This is a great track that spirals itself around my mind. “Everyday is work – work – work – work.” Bob knew the struggle was real.
  8. Elvis Costello, “Welcome To The Working Week” – The ultimate Monday morning song.
  9. Bob Dylan, “Union Sundown” – Great blues-rock track where Dylan laments the decline of unions which fought so hard for the American worker, and the sad fact that most of what you buy is made elsewhere. “Well, my shoes, they come from Singapore, My flashlight’s from Taiwan, My tablecloth’s from Malaysia.”
  10. Randy Newman, “Mr. President (Have Pity On The Working Man)” – Randy Newman, the greatest satirist of his time, making a plea to the President for the working man.
  11. Pete Townshend, “Keep On Working” – Pete encouraging us all to just keep on working…
  12. The Rolling Stones, “Dirty Work” – Not exactly a fit but who can resist a great Stones’ deep track. “You let somebody do the dirty work, find some loser, find some jerk.” Somehow I can relate to this in my working life…
  13. The Who, “Dirty Jobs” – Great track about bad jobs from Quadrophenia, my favorite of their many “concept albums.
  14. Genesis, “Just A Job I Do” – A song about being either an assassin or a spy or perhaps both. Collins hits the drums hard to simulate a gun shot. Impressive. It sums up how I feel about work, it’s not a career it’s just a job I do.
  15. Lou Reed, “Don’t Talk To Me About Work” – Sometimes when you get home you just don’t want to talk about your job. Time to crack a beer and forget about it. “I’m up to my eye balls in dirt, with work.”
  16. Chris Rea, “I’m Workin’ On It” – This is one of my favorite tracks here. I know I could say this to my boss, “I got eight little fingers and only two thumbs, Will you leave me in peace while I get the work done.”
  17. Van Halen, “Get Up” – One of those early “trying-too-hard” rock tracks from the early Van Hagar era. “Get up and make it work.”
  18. Rush, “Working Man” – This is the ultimate song for the working man. Epic rock from one of the greatest bands of all time. Check out the live version on the Moving Pictures – 40th Anniversary Edition.
  19. Bachman Turner Overdrive, “Takin’ Care of Business” – Who could resist a little Bachman Turner Overdrive, “B – T – O!”? “I love to work on nothin’ all day.”
  20. Bruce Springsteen, “Working On The Highway” – Great track about building infrastructure until a young girl enters the picture. Very similar story to “Darlington County.”
  21. Prince, “Let’s Work” – This work doesn’t sound like what I’m talking about here but it’s Prince… get funky, baby.
  22. Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Workin’ For MCA” – I would think having a record contract and “working” for a record company would be good news for a band but clearly Skynyrd didn’t dig it.
  23. The Police, “Dead End Job” – Rare early track about well, not wanting a dead end job. Sting was a teacher, maybe he’s talking about that? Helluva fast pace.
  24. Bob Dylan, “Maggie’s Farm” – Where our narrator laments the working conditions on a family-owned agriculture concern. “I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more.”
  25. David Crosby and Graham Nash, “Fieldworker” – Great track honoring the folks who work on big farms asking for dignity and to be “treated like a human.” Good stuff from Graham Nash here.
  26. Neil Young, “Union Man” – This track won’t be on the playlist because, well, Spotify. “Loud music is better, bumper stickers should be issued.”
  27. Jim Croce, “Workin’ At The Car Wash Blues” – This one is for my folks. My dad was a huge Jim Croce fan and he may have been the only artist who the Hard Guy owned more than one record from.
  28. Bon Jovi, “Livin’ On A Prayer” – Where a young dock worker and his girlfriend, a waitress, struggle against the vicissitudes of capitalism and turn to religion and prayer.
  29. Van Morrison, “All Work And No Play” – “All work and no play makes Jack a dull chap.” That sums it up. Slip out early and have some fun this Labor Day.
  30. Bob Seger, “Makin’ Thunderbirds” – Great track about the American autoworker and lamentations on how we don’t build Thunderbirds anymore.
  31. Gary U.S. Bonds, “Out of Work” – With unemployment at a record low, one can only hope that most people can find a job. And that it pays a living wage…
  32. Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul, “Solidarity” – This lyric means the world to me: “Everybody wants to work for a living, Everybody wants to keep their children warm.” Indeed, everybody wants to work and take care of their family and earn a livable wage.
  33. Warren Zevon, “The Factory” – Warren Zevon, backed by R.E.M. on this album, singing about the hard life that factory workers face.
  34. R.E.M., “Finest Worksong” – Speaking of R.E.M., this is a great song from the first LP from them that I ever bought, Document. It actually is a fine work song.
  35. Bob Dylan, “Workingman’s Blues #2” – Dylan returning to the subject of the workingman. Does Dylan get enough credit for his mastery of the blues?
  36. Paul McCartney, “On My Way To Work” – McCartney reminiscing about his pre-Beatles working days.
  37. Godfathers, “Birth, School, Work, Death” – I was late to the Godfathers’ LP Birth, School, Work, Death but the title track sums up the circle of life for most of us.
  38. Todd Rundgren, “Bang The Drum All Day” – While I have no rhythm I’d rather bang a drum all day than work.
  39. Van Halen, “Beats Workin'” – Whatever you’re doing this Labor Day, it’s gotta beat workin’. What’s that bumper sticker, “The worst day fishing beats the best day workin'”? Truth. While Roth’s vocals could be described (as they were by my friend Dr. Rock) ” as the sound of a pet store full of animals burning down,” Eddie’s guitar work is always singular.
  40. Sam Cooke, “Chain Gang” – Sam singing about the deplorable practice of putting prisoners to work in chains. Watch the movie Cool Hand Luke if you have any doubts that this was a horrible thing.
  41. The Rolling Stones, “Factory Girl” – Dedicate one to the ladies… Rosie the Riveter, may I have this dance?
  42. Bruce Springsteen, “Factory” – Bruce writing about his dad and how hard he worked down at the factory.
  43. Van Morrison, “I’ve Been Working” – A great track that Bob Seger used to cover live. Funky, powerful… “I’ve been workin’, I’ve been workin’ so hard.” Even after a day of hard work, Van just wants to come and get some love.
  44. Chuck Berry, “Let It Rock” – A track where Chuck describes railroad workers and an impending accident. Where was OSHA?
  45. Steely Dan, “Dirty Work” – Again, a bit of reach here, as this is about a relationship instead of an actual job. But, if you think about it, relationships can be a lot of work. One of those early David Palmer on lead vocals Steely songs.
  46. Tom Waits, “I Can’t Wait To Get Off Work (And See My Baby On Montgomery Avenue)” – Beautiful ballad. I remember getting off whatever job I had, running home to shower and heading to see my baby. I love the lyric, “Don’t do this, don’t do that,” and then he speaks the line, “Tom don’t do that.”
  47. Neil Young & The Bluenotes, “Ten Men Working” – I listened to this on vinyl last night. It remains amongst those records maybe only I enjoy. This is a great track though.
  48. Peter Gabriel, “Don’t Give Up” – Beautiful ballad with Peter sharing lead vocals with Kate Bush who has recently seen a resurgence through the series Stranger Things. The song chronicles the doubts and despair of a working man and his wife offering words of encouragement, “Don’t give up, I know you can make it…” The devastating loss of and search for work is palpable. It’s a dialogue between husband and wife that is so intimate it feels like eavesdropping.
  49. Pearl Jam, “Unemployable” – Great Pearl Jam deep track. About a man whose frustrations about his precarious work situation has led to violence and perhaps even a loss of his religious faith. That’s a lot for a 3 minute rock song to take on. “I’m scared of life, near death.” Heavy themes set to heavy rock.
  50. U2, “The Hands That Built America” – The ranks of Labor – many of whom were immigrants – built the skyscrapers the 1% could hide away in while forgetting about us.
  51. Billy Joel, “Allentown” – The classic Rust Belt song.
  52. Loverboy, “Workin’ For the Weekend” – I don’t like Loverboy although admittedly we all listened to them back in the day and this isn’t a bad song. I knew if I omitted this song, it’d be one of the first to be recommended so I bit the bullet and added it. More cowbell!
  53. Bruce Springsteen, “Workin’ On a Dream” – I included this on my Playlists about the Surreal Realm of Dreaming, and hesitated to add it to this one, but this lyric jumped at me, “Rain pourin’ down, I swing my hammer, My hands are rough from working on a dream…” That’s working, man.
  54. ZZ Top, “Just Got Paid” – Why do we work? To get paid. When I heard, “If you believe I like workin’ hard all day, Just step in my shoes and take my pay,” I realized it totally fit. This riff is greasier than a bacon sandwich on Wonder bread. Turn it up and pass the napkins.
  55. John Lennon, “Working Class Hero” – This is one of the most nakedly honest songs I’ve ever heard. It’s tough but he’s not wrong.
  56. Merle Haggard, “Workin’ Man Blues” – I saw Merle Haggard live opening for Dylan and his voice was like smooth, aged whiskey. I rarely include any country songs – outside of Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson – but this is a great song. Come for his voice, stay for lyrics like “I’ll keep workin’ as long as my two hands are fit to use, I’ll drink my beer in a tavern and sing a little bit of these working man blues.” Barkeep, another round for the working man at the end of the bar.

There you go! Again, turn this one up loud and enjoy your day off, God knows you’ve earned it. I welcome any and all suggestions for additions to the list in the comment section. Be safe this weekend!

Cheers!

B&V’s Favorite B-Sides – Songs That Were Orphans But Found Fame Anyway

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*Photo of actual 45s, and actual B-sides, taken by your intrepid blogger

I think a lot of people, especially the casual music fan, can be put off by the term B-side. The term sounds like something you’d find in the discount aisle of your local retailer next to day old bread. It’s not an “A” it’s a “B” so it must be somehow… less valuable? Oddly, I actually understood what a B-side was before I started really getting into collecting music. My father had an old wire rack full of singles – known as 45s as that was the speed the turntable would have to be turned to in order to spin the smaller vinyl discs. An album is rated at 33 1/3 RPM (revolutions per minute), a single was 45 RPM’s. These old 45s that my father had amassed when he was still cool was a who’s who of 50s popular music: Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Ray Charles. My little brother commandeered the collection as his own when he was really young and then enhanced it by buying Beatles’ singles…he was always years ahead of me on rock n roll…it’s a wonder he didn’t make my parents get his haircut in that mop top Beatles’ style but I digress. He had the little plastic insert that allowed him to play the 45s – which have a bigger hole in the middle – on the turntable. 45s only had one song per side unlike an album which has a number of songs on each side (well, typically… maybe not if you’re the Allman Brothers and it’s live and you’re really cooking, then it might be say, “Whipping Post” taking up one entire side of the LP). My brother and I shared a room in the early days so occasionally I’d wander in hand he’d be playing tunes. I think it was on one of those occasions that he explained what a B-side was to me before I even cared about music.

In the early days of rock n roll, like my dad’s collection, the music industry was focused on singles. Typically albums were merely a collection of previously released singles. When the artist in question had released enough songs to fill up an album the record company would lump ’em together and pump out the LP as another item to sell to the public. On those singles typically the A-side would be the song they wanted to release as the “hit.” What to do with the other side of the 7″ vinyl disc? Well, slap another song on the B-side! Typically the B-side would be a “lesser” tune, one the record company didn’t have high hopes for. The record company didn’t always get it right. Tony Bennett’s signature song “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” began as a B-side to “Once Upon A Time” a track none us can remember. “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” may be that first B-side to break out as a hit, I don’t really know. It was a DJ who decided to turn the record over to play the B-side and the rest, as they say, is history. Since it was left up to the record company, sometimes with input from the artist, B-sides weren’t always the “lesser” of the two tracks released. Record companies are rarely right about anything.

When the Beatles ushered in the “album” era of rock n roll the nature of B-sides changed. It really was the Beatles, especially after they stopped touring, who realized the artistic possibilities of a full length album. You listen to albums like Rubber Soul or Revolver and you realize there is a unity of sound and themes that enhance the listening experience over 12 songs instead of just the “hit” singles and some filler. When artists started releasing full length, thought-out albums the pool of tracks for use on B-sides – because people still bought a ton of singles back then – became a lot deeper. Typically the record company would pick a song to be a single, and then look for a deep album cut that in some cases might be “filler” on the album and slap it on the B-side. However, as usual, the record company didn’t always get it right. Rod Stewart’s signature song “Maggie May” was the B-side to “Reason To Believe.” And, exactly like “I Left My Heart In San Francisco,” an enterprising DJ in America turned the single over and voila, “Maggie May” is a monster hit and Rod Stewart became a star.

In the pantheon of great, great songs that started out as B-sides the list is long. The Beatles chose to release the epic psychedelic track “I Am The Walrus” (mostly written by John Lennon) as the B-side to “Hello, Goodbye” a McCartney track. Obviously “I Am The Walrus” is a legendary track but they put it on the B-side? Which is too bad because Lennon was quoted later as saying something like, “that was when we all began to get tired of being Paul’s backing band.” That animosity festered… But “I Am The Walrus” is not an isolated case of great tracks ending up as a B-side. So many great tracks ended up as B-sides and went on to become monster hits, legendary in their own right. The Stones released “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” as the B-side to “Honky Tonk Woman”; Bowie released “Suffragette City” as B-side to “Starman”; and finally the Byrds’ “Feel A Whole Lot Better” (a Gene Clark penned classic) was B-side for “All I Really Want To Do” a Dylan cover. The list is vast and I could go on and on.

Any of those tracks could have easily made it onto our list of “favorite B-sides,” but the stakes rose. In the 70s as bands became more prolific and often bands would have more music than they needed for an album. Many times they’d have a song that they really liked but it wouldn’t fit the confined space of vinyl or wasn’t the right vibe for that particular album or often they’d record a cover song just for the fun of it. Instead of putting out a deeper album cut as the B-side, the band would put out one of those unreleased tracks that didn’t make the album. For me the prime example of that was “Hey Hey What Can I Do,” a great acoustic driven track that Zeppelin left off Zeppelin III and instead put out as the B-side of “The Immigrant Song.” Suddenly, this opened up the possibility of non-album, previously unreleased gems out in the wild. Hunting for stray B-sides was a fun side project for my old roommate Drew and I as we built our album collections in college. I remember spending weekends on vacation in Chicago hunting for certain songs only found on that B-side single. Finding a cool B-side is frankly the only reason I lament the end of singles being released. I’ve always been an album guy.

While the hunt was fun, in the era of CD-box sets and compilations many of those orphaned B-sides have been released. Often CD releases and “deluxe edition” releases of classic albums contain those old hard to find B-sides. U2 has done two “greatest hits” LPs each with a complimentary disc of B-sides. Springsteen has Tracks that contained a lot of the B-sides that Drew and I were always chasing after back in college. R.E.M. released Dead Letter Office, a collection of strictly B-sides (and what a great title for that LP). Now, it’s bad enough singles are rarely if ever released, but there’s no scurrying around town to all the usual vinyl shops looking to locate that one copy of “Go Your Own Way” paired with “Silver Springs.” The hunt is over. Now if you want to hear Prince do “Irresistible Bitch” you merely have to download it from a box set. For those of us aware of and collecting B-sides it was like being a member of a cool club or subculture. I guess I still have hunting for great used vinyl purchases left to me… sigh.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine, Dr. Rock, commented on a post I’d done with a playlist of tracks from 1982. Or it might have been a comment on our post about Robert Plant’s solo debut, Pictures At Eleven. Regardless, he mentioned a track “Far Post” that has always been a favorite B-side of mine and naturally Dr Rock suggested I do a post on my 10 favorite B-sides. And as usual that stretched out to my 25 favorite B-sides. In between cranking up new songs from Billy Idol (“Cage”) and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (“Tippa My Tongue”) this week I’ve been scouring through my old 45s and box sets looking for B-sides. As I indicated above, I chose B-sides that were orphans – songs that were originally left off of albums – songs that could only be found on the second side of a 45 or on the single CD release (from back when they would still put out singles on CD with a few extra tracks). I mostly avoided the “deep album tracks” as B-sides. My list is not meant to exhaustive but merely representative of a) my personal favorites and b) what kind of quality material is out there in the world by artists we all love but you may not have heard or worse, heard of. My list stems from the well known all the way to my usual obscure choices. If you have a favorite B-side that didn’t end up on a record, please post it in the comments section. I’m always looking for a good, unheard tune…

The Bourbon And Vinyl 25 Favorite B-Sides

  • Elvis Presley, “Hound Dog” – Elvis released “Hound Dog,” one of his most famous tunes, a few months after his second LP Elvis was released. It was originally released as the B-side of “Don’t Be Cruel.” The record company quickly changed the printing on the single sleeve to make “Hound Dog” the A-side, and “Don’t Be Cruel” the B-side… it didn’t really matter, both songs hit number 1. Elvis was aware of the original by the legendary Big Mama Thornton but was likely more influenced by a cover done by Freddie Bell and the Bellhops. It’s hard not to include one of the greatest songs ever on a favorite B-sides list. As Dylan said, “I’m standing on a chair proposing a toast to the King.” Surely he meant Elvis?
  • Jimi Hendrix Experience, “51st Anniversary” – I’ve always dug this track about a couple who have been married for well, 51 years. This track didn’t make it on Are You Experienced? but was released as the B side for “Purple Haze.”
  • The Beatles, “Revolution” – Another case where Lennon had his track relegated the B-side in deference to McCartney’s A-side “Hey Jude.” Maybe Paul should have let Lennon win a few of these battles. I get “Hey Jude” is epic but “Revolution” is probably my favorite hard rocking Beatles track. Both tracks were on the unreleased tracks, stop-gap U.S. LP Hey Jude.
  • Neil Young, “Sugar Mountain” – Neil liked this song so much he used it as the B-side for two different songs, “The Loner” from his debut and “Cinnamon Girl” from Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere with Crazy Horse. “You can’t be 20, on Sugar Mountain with the barkers and the colored balloons…” It finally was included on Neil’s three-LP greatest hits package Decade a compilation album truly ahead if it’s time.
  • Paul McCartney, “Oh Woman, Oh Why” – McCartney has a myriad of great B-sides. It was hard to pick just one. I’ve always loved “Oh Woman, Oh Why” the B-side to his first ever solo single “Another Day.” The lyrics are a bit slight but McCartney sings like he’s Little Richard turned up to 11. This track is kind of a bluesy rocker and I’ve just always loved it.
  • George Harrison, “Deep Blue” – This rarity was finally released on the “deluxe edition” of Living In The Material World but began as the B-side for Harrison’s charity track “Bangla Desh.” I don’t think of the Beatles as being especially bluesy but I love this acoustic, blues shuffle. Harrison landed a few blues tracks on our Rockers Playing the Blues playlist… I should have included this quiet little gem. I’m a sucker for the blues. I think my brother may have played this song for me, he was a huge Harrison fan and might have had the “Bangla Desh” single.
  • Led Zeppelin, “Hey Hey What Can I Do” – This song, for me, was the beginning of my B-side awareness. Finding this song as the B-side on the single for “The Immigrant Song” was like finding the Ark of the Covenant for Indiana Jones. I can’t believe this track never landed on a proper Zeppelin LP.
  • AC/DC, “Carry Me Home” – This great, hysterical drinking song – that only Bon Scott could have written – was the B-side to the track “Dog Eat Dog” from Let There Be Rock. It was an early selection for inclusion on our Drinking Songs playlist and really is a centerpiece there of. We find our hero, the narrator, too drunk to drive home and it’s too late to find a bus or cab. His only solution is to ask a young lady he’s been drinking with to carry him home with her. Reminds me of my 20s. Rakish charm?
  • Fleetwood Mac, “Silver Springs” – Oh man, this is one of my all time favorite Mac songs. The Rock Chick preferred the live version from The Dance, but I’d been a fan of this song, the B-side to “Go Your Own Way,” that had been criminally left off Rumours, since the first time I heard it in the car driving back to Boston from Cape Cod during my summer after college. It just grabbed me from the beginning. When Stevie builds to the climax and sings/shouts “I know I could’ve loved you, but you would not let me, I’ll follow you down ’til the sound of my voice will haunt you…” she means it. The song does haunt me and I’m not even who she’s singing to…
  • Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Casa Dega” – This song was left off Damn The Torpedoes and was originally released as the B-side to “Don’t Do Me Like That.” Petty has so many B-sides that have seen subsequently released on his various box sets it was hard to pick just one (and actually I picked 2) but I’ve always loved this song partially inspired by a Spiritualist camp in Florida.
  • Robert Plant, “Far Post” – As pointed out by the aforementioned Dr. Rock when we posted about Plant’s solo debut Pictures At Eleven, this amazing song was left off the album and released as a B-side to “Burning Down One Side” in the UK and eventually found it’s way to my local radio station. Great piano break in the song… it felt like Plant was already starting to stretch the boundaries of what he could do outside Zeppelin.
  • The Police, “Murder By Numbers” – The Police actually released this song on Synchronicity if you bought the cassette. Well, I’d purchased the vinyl, naturally. But they made up for it by releasing it as the B-side of “Every Breath You Take.” This was such a great song it never made sense to me they didn’t put it on the vinyl. They do include it on the CD version of Synchronicity.
  • R.E.M., “Pale Blue Eyes” – R.E.M., like so many bands who’ve recorded a ton of B-sides released an entire album of B-sides on the collection Dead Letter Office. I love that album as they do a ton of cover songs. Cover songs do have a way of popping up as B-sides. I especially love this song, a Velvet Underground track. Michael Stipe can sing almost any song better than any original singer. This track was a B-side to the great track “South Central Rain.” I really could have picked just about any song from Dead Letter Office… and heavily considered their cover of Aerosmith’s “Toys In The Attic” which has to be heard to be believed.
  • Prince & the Revolution, “17 Days” – This track was a B-side from “When Doves Cry” from Princes’ masterpiece Purple Rain. This was such an incredible album it’s no surprise that there were some incredible B-sides… Prince was so prolific. This is a classic funk, pop song about a break up. I was drawn to this kinda track back in the day. The chorus will drill into your brain… “Let the rain come down, let the rain come down…” I may be the only fan of this track but I had to include it. It just takes me back…
  • The Cars, “Breakaway” – The Cars buried this outtake from the Heartbeat City album as the B-side to the fifth(!) single “Why Can’t I Have You.” I first heard the song, once again, in the car as some friends of mine and I were driving over a high bridge on our way onto Padre Island for Spring Break. Can you think of a better theme song for a Spring Break? “The loud mornin’ in the small town cries…You gotta get away.” Actually the Spring Break was a disaster but I spent years looking for this track which I later found out was about heroin
  • Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, “Pink Cadillac” – The B-side to “Dancing In The Dark.” Oh man, we all bought the 45 with this as the B-side. Clarence Clemons on the sax is epic. I still drive a little faster when this song comes on the stereo.
  • Don Henley, “A Month of Sundays” – This is a little like “Murder By Numbers,” listed above. The track was on the cassette version of Building The Perfect Beast but not the vinyl version I had. It was released as the B-side of “Boys of Summer” and I remember being floored the first time I heard it. I did a tape to tape thing and recorded it so I could listen to it over and over. It’s a sad ballad about the death of the family farm but it just grabbed me.
  • Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, “Shut Out The Lights” – Bruce has so many B-sides it was hard to limit myself to just two… This is another Born In The U.S.A. B-side, to the title track. Both songs are about a Vietnam veteran but are very different vibes. “Born In The U.S.A.” was a huge, arena rocking anthem (that was widely misunderstood). “Shut Out The Lights” delivered the message more directly in my mind as it was a sad song about the mental health struggles our veterans faced when they returned from the war.
  • Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, “Fortunate Son” – Well, I did mention that cover songs do have a way of finding themselves on B-sides. This track was the B-side to “American Storm” from the Like A Rock album. I don’t know if there is a more fitting artist to cover Creedence Clearwater Revival than Bob Seger. Perfect song in the perfect hands. Smokin’ O.P.s indeed.
  • Rod Stewart, “Almost Illegal” – Rod had been doing middling pop for so long it was a big deal when he teamed up with Andy Taylor erstwhile guitarist from Duran Duran and released Out Of Order an album that actually… rocked! This song was the B-side to “Lost In You” and I was so enamored with both the LP and that song, I gave this 45 a chance and brought it home from the record store. And, yes, this song rocked and made me smile at the same time. This is probably the most obscure track on my favorites but I am who I am.
  • The Rolling Stones, “Fancy Man Blues” – When the Stones reunited for Steel Wheels we were all ecstatic. I was living in Arkansas at the time and I jumped a flight to Chicago to see them on that tour out at East Troy where Stevie Ray died… Anyway, I was in a bar the night before the show and whoever was in charge played “Fancy Man Blues” the B-side to “Mixed Emotions” and then I spent years trying to find it. The Stones always return to the blues.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Soul To Squeeze” – As I mentioned in my resent post on the Peppers’ new song “Tippa My Tongue,” the RHCP’s creative process includes a lot of jamming which leads to a plethora of unused material that ends up as a B-side. This haunting ballad – that has to be about Hillel Slovak’s death and Anthony Kiedis’ running away to Mexico and missing the funeral – was used as a B-side twice for both “Give It Away” and “Under the Bridge” before finding widespread fame on the Coneheads’ soundtrack. I’ve seen them do it live and man, goosebumps.
  • Pearl Jam, “Yellow Ledbetter” – Well, you knew this track would be on here, it’s only the most famous B-side released in the 90s. It was the B-side to Jeremy and I purchased the CD single just so I could own this track. It sounds like an homage to Stevie Ray Vaughn, at least when you hear them play it live, but that might just be me. I do relate to the lyric “I said I don’t know whether I’m the boxer or the bag.”
  • U2, “The Lady With the Spinning Head (UV1)” – The Rock Chick turned me onto this song. I love it. It was a demo that spawned both “The Fly” and then “Ultraviolet Light.” Eventually it saw release as the B-side to “One.” We put this on one of our party tracks and people always approach me and ask me about this song… and “The Ground Beneath Her Feet,” but that’s another song for another day.
  • Tom Petty, “Girl On LSD” – Any long time readers of B&V know that this song was my “white whale” in terms of B-sides for a long time. I did have a bootleg version but I always want an official version if I can get it. It’s the funniest song Petty ever did. It finally saw release (in an alternative version) on Finding Wildflowers. Petty has another bluesy rocker named “Sweet William” that has become my new “white whale” B-side… I will find you “Sweet William,” if it kills me.

Many of these tracks you’ve probably heard before. But if there are ones you haven’t I urge you to seek them out and give them a spin. These sadly orphaned B-sides deserve to be heard. There are so many more B-sides out there that I didn’t list. I look forward to seeing if any of you out there have a favorite B-side to add to this list.

Enjoy the last bit of summer! Cheers!

“What’s In A Name?” – Our Favorite Non-Debut, Self-Titled (Eponymous) LPs – Major Statements?

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“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” – William Shakespeare, Romeo And Juliet

A number of years ago I stumbled across a review that described an LP as the artist in question’s “eponymous album” and I didn’t have the foggiest idea what that meant. I’d never seen the word before and as I usually do, I quickly consulted Webster, despite my daughter’s ridicule for doing so – it’s how you build a vocabulary – who defines eponymous as “of, relating to, or being the person or thing for whom or which something is named.” I have to admit they use a whole lot of words just to say a work is named after the artist. I’m still not sure what the correct pronunciation of “eponymous” is and avoid the word in conversation…so much for increasing my vocabulary. I’m a “Jr,” named for my dad, so apparently that means I’m my father’s eponymous son as opposed to my brother. If I understand correctly George Foreman named all of his kids George Foreman… he must really be down with the whole eponymous thing.

There are a lot of artists who use the band name as the title of their first album. Or should we say, they named their debut album in an eponymous way… still working on the vocab! Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen and the list goes on and on, all named their first record after themselves. The debut album is a critical album in every artist’s career. It’s your introduction to a mass audience. And, as the saying goes, you only have one chance to introduce yourself (Pleased To Meet You: The Epic List of Our 40 Favorite Debut Albums). Why not use the debut album as a calling card for the band and just drop your rock n roll “John Hancock” on the front cover as a title? You want people to remember your name. Who can blame any band for doing that? One never knows how the debut is going to be received but it never hurts to name it after the band. Not everybody has an album like say, Boston up their sleeve right out of the gate. While I love all of those great eponymous debut albums, that’s not what I’m here to discuss today.

There also artists who are into the heavy Roman numeral thing. After Led Zeppelin’s eponymous (double word score?) debut they named their next two albums Led Zeppelin II and Led Zeppelin III respectively. I don’t want to utter any blasphemy here but you have to wonder if Zeppelin just couldn’t come up with any suitable album titles? They didn’t even bother to name their 4th album. They just put four runes on it to baffle everybody. To this day people aren’t sure what to call that album (Led Zeppelin IV or Zoso or Runes). Van Halen fell prey to the Roman numeral thing on their second LP, Van Halen II. McCartney has revisited the concept of his first, post-Beatles, solo album with McCartney II and McCartney III which are apparent sequels to that experimental masterpiece debut McCartney. Peter Gabriel named all of his first four albums Peter Gabriel. He wanted his albums to be thought of as successive chapters in the same book. Talk about a guy who just couldn’t get out of his own way! While all of these albums are eponymous-adjacent, they really don’t fit what I’m here to discuss today.

I know, I know, what am I here to talk about? Get to the point.

There have been bands/artists who later in their career who have chosen to release a self-titled album. Again, we’re not talking about debut LPs or solo debuts here. There is a theory in rock n roll that when an artist does that – goes eponymous later in their career – it is typically an attempt to make either a major statement or more likely a major career re-boot. It’s the artist re introducing themselves. I was thinking about that the other day. While painters put their name on every painting they do, after the debut it’s much more rare for a musical artist to go with a self-titled album. There’s typically a motive there. Maybe the band split up for a while and they’re back together so the self-titled LP is a way of saying, “We’re back, did you miss us? (I so rarely get to quote “Hot For Teacher,” I couldn’t resist).

I began to think of some of my favorite non-debut, eponymous albums and I have to admit the ones that came to mind all have a bit of swagger. It’s that John Hancock, “I’m signing my name in big letters so the King can read it without his spectacles” kind of chutzpah. In many cases it’s more about a band coming back together and finding that shared, band identity again. To me it comes across a statement of purpose or maybe resolve. It says, this is who I am. And yes, in some cases there is an implied “Perhaps you don’t remember me?”

I came up with thirteen self-titled records that I’d count amongst my favorites. Although after laying awake thinking about it for a while, I threw in an extra wildcard album. Now I have 14 albums where the artist chose to name this particular work after themselves or to put it less clearly, the artist chose to name the album “of, relating to, or being the person or thing for whom or which something is named.” If you have a favorite eponymous LP and it’s not on this list, please put it in the comments. I’m always looking for something I missed. If you haven’t gotten into these albums, I urge everyone to do so. And yes, for all of those of you wondering, I almost put R.E.M.’s greatest hits LP cleverly entitled Eponymous on the list but I didn’t want to be a smart ass.

  1. Alice In Chains – After canceling a tour and basically disbanding due to Layne Staley’s heroin addiction after Jar of Flies, the band reunited and recorded this, their third full LP. It’s one of my favorite from Alice In Chains. “Heaven Beside You,” “Grind,” and “Again” rank amongst their best. Staley’s heroin addiction made recording this album painful but to me it said, “we’ve survived the storm and we’re back as a band.” Sadly, Staley never kicked the habit and succumbed to heroin only a few years later. Their Unplugged LP was his last hurrah.
  2. The Band – While Music From Big Pink was an instant classic, this is a better album in my opinion. It’s the moment the Band stepped out from Dylan’s shadow. This is where they made the statement that they were to be reckoned with in their own right without Dylan. Some of Robbie Robertson’s best songwriting is on this album, “The Night They Drove Ol’ Dixie Down” and “Up On Cripple Creek” are both here.
  3. The Beatles – Also known as The White Album. While this self-title exercise probably had more to do with the minimalist cover art, I still think this was a statement from the Beatles. They had been off doing psychedelic music in day-glo outfits for a while even taking on an assumed identity (Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band) in order to find more artistic freedom and slip the yoke of being “the Beatles.” The band had just returned from India with a huge batch of new songs and they actually started playing the basic tracks as a band again instead of recording each part separately. While they were saying in a round about way they were The Beatles again, they were actually moving in 4 different directions as artists. Still, it’s simply one of the best albums ever.
  4. Buffalo Springfield Again – This may be only eponymous-adjacent but it’s too good of an album not to include here. Neil Young had quit the band after their great debut album but then returned and brought “Mr. Soul” and “Broken Arrow” two masterpieces with him. They were once again Buffalo Springfield.
  5. CSN – Crosby, Stills, Nash had let 7 years lapse since Deja Vu when they finally pulled it together and recorded this one. Sadly, the aforementioned Neil Young is nowhere to be found. They’d tried to do a CSNY album on the heels of their 1974 tour, tentatively titled Human Highway, but it fell apart… although there’s evidence this great LP might still be out there in the vaults, but I digress. CSN is a laid back, yacht rock kinda vibe but there are so many great songs. “Dark Star” and “Just A Song Before I Go” were huge. Crosby kills it on “Shadow Captain.”
  6. Sheryl Crow – OK, this is the wildcard. After the huge success of her debut, Tuesday Night Music Club, some of her collaborators began to grumble it was more their talent than hers that caused the sensation. She came back with such ferocity on her second album and the title – her name – let everybody know who was in charge on this one. I don’t write much about Sheryl Crow but she’s got some real gems in the catalog. Such swagger.
  7. Fleetwood Mac (1975). Fleetwood Mac had seen heights in their long and storied career, especially when Peter Green was in the band at the beginning. But after Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined and they recorded this album it was time to reintroduce themselves to the world. Needless to say the world liked what they heard. This laid the groundwork for the record breaking Rumours.
  8. John Mellencamp – Mellencamp had just moved to Columbia Records after a series of disappointing LPs he didn’t feel his old record company were supporting properly. This is one of the first LPs both the Rock Chick and I discovered we both owned. It’s an amazing late career rebirth. He was clearly letting us know he had plenty of creativity in the tank. He’d already had an LP named John Cougar, John Mellencamp was overdue!
  9. Metallica – Also known as The Black Album. Metallica had perhaps the greatest first four album run in the history of rock n roll. But they’d exhausted the long, epic song style they’d perfected over those records. Metallica was a complete change up – of style and execution – and it still is a landmark heavy metal album. Shorter songs but still heavy, heavy riffs. “Enter Sandman,” “Sad But True” and “Nothing Else Matters” are iconic tunes. Some die-hard, long time fans bemoaned they’d sold out… yes, sold out of every copy of Metallica.
  10. Pearl Jam – I may be the only one who thinks this but I think of this 2006 album as a major comeback for Pearl Jam after 2002’s Riot Act. Riot Act is the only Pearl Jam album I sold at the used CD store. I think the band realized they’d hit their creative/commercial low point. Pearl Jam seemed to me to be a reintroduction of a great band. Rather than just being a big live attraction it was time to do something listenable in the studio again. “Life Wasted” and “World Wide Suicide” rock with a vengeance. “Gone” and “Come Back” showed they could still do mid-tempo and ballads. All of this with socially conscious lyrics. They’ve been on a late career roll ever since all the way through their last album, Gigaton.
  11. Linda Ronstadt – It wasn’t the commercial breakthrough she was hoping for but backed by the future Eagles (Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner) this is where her 70s sound came together. She covers some great tunes here from “Rock Me On The Water” (Jackson Browne) to “Birds” (Neil Young). While the record buying public ignored her first two solo records – Linda Rondstadt says, “Here I come World.” Mega success was just around the corner… but don’t sleep on this album, it’s essential.
  12. Social Distortion – After two great (albeit somewhat overlooked) albums on an indie label Mommy’s Little Monster (named for my wife’s cat, years before it’s birth) and Prison Bound, Social D finally signed to a big label, Epic Records. As a “re-introduction” to the world, they delivered one of their best albums. If only we could get that new album they’ve been working on for the last 12 years… Like Cubs fans, I guess we have to be content saying, “there’s always next year.”
  13. The Velvet Underground – Their third record came after quite a bit of tumult. Andy Warhol had steered their early career during the Velvet Underground and Nico period but they’d split with both Warhol and Nico. The follow up, White Light/White Heat was an experimental, noise filled affair. Their third, self-titled record is where Lou Reed and the gang, now with Doug Yule instead of John Cale, tried to make peace with radio. I love this whole record. Not as edgy as their debut but still with songs like “Jesus” and “Pale Blue Eyes” how could they miss? Sadly, they did with the public… At least drummer Mo Tucker got to sing a song. But, as the saying goes, they didn’t have many fans but all the ones they did have seemed to have gone out and formed bands.
  14. Warren Zevon – After the disastrous 1969 debut, Wanted Dead Or Alive, it took Warren Zevon seven years to finally get back in the game. Warren Zevon is an absolute masterpiece of an album from a guy who should be in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame and should have been inducted a long time ago. I recently tracked this album down on vinyl again. I could listen to “Carmelita” over and over again…

That’s it – my fourteen favorite self-titled albums. I considered calling it the BourbonAndVinyl Eponymous Albums list but that seems too self-referential even for me. Again, I think these are albums everyone should hear – and certainly the Metallica, the Beatles and Fleetwood Mac have probably been heard by most people. Even if you’ve heard these records I implore you to pull them out and listen all over again… If you’re new to classic rock and haven’t heard these albums before, I highly recommend putting any or all of these albums on and turning it up to 11… maybe put a little whiskey in a glass…

Cheers!

Playlist: The B&V Favorite Covers of Chuck Berry Songs – A Tribute To His Immense Influence

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*Picture from the internet and likely copyrighted

“If you were to try and give rock and roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry” – John Lennon

As longtime readers know, I spent much of the last week and half listening to the 50th anniversary edition of Elton John’s Madman Across The Water. As I listened to that beautiful rock and roll album I couldn’t help but ruminate on the future of rock n roll. Will anyone ever make music like that again? And as usually happens when I think about the future of rock n roll, my mind kept returning to rock’s history, where it’s been. While Elvis is universally hailed as the King of Rock n Roll, although he was uncomfortable with the title and used to say, “Fats Domino, he’s the King of Rock n Roll,” a guy that ought to be in that discussion is Chuck Berry.

I was surprised that it’d been over five years since we lost Chuck Berry. And yes, I wrote my usual tribute/”obituary” (RIP Chuck Berry – Hail, Hail Rock’n’Roll), but I don’t feel I properly honored the man. I think you could argue that the Beatles and the Stones are greatest rock n roll bands ever. Sure, there’s the Zeppelin and Pink Floyd fans and I dig those bands too, but the influence the Stones and especially the Beatles had on popular music is enormous. The thing that people don’t seem to remember is those bands had influences as well and one of the biggest influences on both of them was Chuck Berry. As much as Paul McCartney wants to describe the Stones as a “blues cover” band, they also played a ton of Chuck Berry in those early days.

Speaking of the Beatles, I’m reminded of when I was just a little kid or as Tom Petty sang, “a boy in short pants.” I hated elementary school which seemed like a bad prank my parents played on me. Like the Godfather’s sang, “Birth, school, work, death.” I’m not a morning person, and even at that very tender age I was stunned I had to wake up, get out of bed, put clothes on and go to what seemed like a prison for the day with people I didn’t like. What I really liked, besides summer vacation, was to be sick and stay home. I had a Charlie Brown poster on the back of my door that read “Happiness is being too sick to go to school but not too sick to watch TV.” Savage honesty from Peanuts.

I remember – and I was in the single digits, age wise – being sick a couple of days and my Sainted Mother made a bed on the couch for me. Day time TV was different back then. The local station showed an old, old movie in the morning and there was Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas in the afternoon. There was no Oprah or Ellen back then. The shrews on “The View” were just someone else’s nightmare back then. I turn on the Mike Douglas show that first sick day and his cohost that week – he’d have a different one each week as I recall – was John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono. I was so young I only had a vague idea who the Beatles were – they were a  music group my brother liked – and I was pretty sure John had been in the Beatles. It was a crazy week of TV. Mike was stunningly very welcoming to John & Yoko who were counterculture icons by this point. They had a Black Panther on, they had George Carlin on. It was wonderfully subversive TV, and in-color! But the thing I remember most is Lennon bringing on Chuck Berry. His love and admiration was on full display in this clip. And mind you this is after Chuck had sued Lennon for lifting a few lyrics from him for “Come Together,” (“Here comes ol’ flattop he comes groovin’ up slowly”).

Lennon clearly worshiped the guy. So did McCartney although I sense he was more of a Little Richard fan. And this underscores my point about Chuck’s influence on rock n roll. He was really the first “guitar hero” rock star. Elvis would wear a guitar around his neck sometimes but he was a singer. Fats Domino, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis all sat behind a piano. Buddy Holly played guitar but he wasn’t as aggressive a player as Berry. Berry was a precursor to Hendrix. He was out front, singing but also playing the guitar at the same time. His duck walk, pictured above, was as iconic as Michael Jackson’s moonwalk.

Most of Chuck’s tunes were up-beat rockers. He would just find a riff and ride it until the end. It was very guitar forward rock n roll. He would play blistering, albeit brief solos. It was the sound of freedom and rebellion. You could tell Chuck was probably misbehaving. He wrote more songs about under age girls than perhaps he should have…Everybody that you can think of – all the great bands and artists – cover Chuck. From the aforementioned Beatles (and both Lennon and McCartney) to the Stones (and Keith solo) to the Kinks, the Animals, the Everly Brothers and even Elvis covered Chuck Berry. Even if a band you love didn’t cover Chuck, they can probably play one of his tracks live. Keith Richards even did a documentary in honor of Chuck, Hail! Hail! Rock N Roll. There are so many great tunes that are based on the Chuck Berry formula: the Stones’ “Star Star” and Bob Seger’s “Get Out Of Denver” to name but a few. He’s all over rock n roll.

If you’ve never really listened to Chuck Berry – and you’ve probably heard his music but didn’t realize your favorite band was playing Chuck – I would recommend his compilation LP The Great Twenty-Eight, as a starting point. There are probably bigger or more complete “greatest hits” packages but The Great Twenty Eight covers the cream of the crop all in one disc. Artists in the 50s and 60s were more singles focused instead of album focused so compilations of those singles are the best way to experience artists like Chuck or Buddy Holly. My father had a bunch of singles from Elvis, Johnny Cash and Ray Charles but oddly no Chuck Berry…

I decided to compile a playlist based on The Great Twenty Eight. I did something similar with Robert Johnson’s King Of the Delta Blues album. I find my favorite versions of covers of the songs on the album and put them on my play list. I also threw in a few bonus tracks of versions of songs that are too good to ignore. One thing I found and this is weird to me – is that there are so many blues or blues rock guys that covered Chuck Berry. It’s like he’s a missing link between the blues and rock and roll. Maybe it’s because he was so guitar focused. His songs were riff, riff, solo, riff. And that is kind of similar to blues. But when you see Johnny Winter, George Thorogood and Foghat on a list you start to think, hmmm the blues and Chuck Berry must have had some synergy. If you’ve got a great Chuck Berry cover, put it in the comments and I’ll drop it in the playlist. As usual you can find my playlist on the dread Spotify.

  1. AC/DC, “School Days” – AC/DC rock this one. I’ll say again it’s interesting how bands with a great blues base always seem to find Chuck. I love Angus’ solo but then I love all of his solos.
  2. The Rolling Stones, “Come On” – I could have just filled this list with Stones’ tunes. I love this mono version of the Stones’ very first single. I mean, very first ever.
  3. Faces, “Memphis” – This is the ultimate version of this song in my opinion and one of my favorite songs from Rod Stewart, Ron Wood, Ronnie Lane and the gang. Woody just takes the band on a little slide guitar jam before the song kicks in. Sublime.
  4. Bob Seger, “Let It Rock” – If Seger’s early music was out there I’d have included the studio version of this track from Smokin’ O.P.s but this epic live version will do. It’s amazing that Seger and the Silver Bullet Band could take a three minute Chuck Berry song and turn it into their epic show ending last encore for the balance of their career. You hear a snippet of “Little Queenie” as well. “Get Out of Denver” from Bob might be the best Chuck Berry song not done by Chuck.
  5. The Animals, “Around And Around” – The Stones also did this track on their second LP but I feel like the Animals – who were a solid blues rock outfit in their own right – deserve some love from B&V.
  6. The Rolling Stones, “Bye Bye Johnny” – Another Berry cover, another single. The devotion was real!
  7. The Kinks, “Too Much Monkey Business” – Sure I could have gone with the Elvis version but I couldn’t resist this version by the Kinks. The Yardbirds did a spirited version of this track as well.
  8. John Lennon, “You Can’t Catch Me” – One of several Chuck Berry covers Lennon did on his oft overlooked 1975 LP Rock N Roll an album of early rock covers which made our list of favorite “cover albums.”
  9. Linda Ronstadt, “Back In The U.S.A.” – One of my all time favorite Chuck Berry covers and one of my favorite songs from Ronstadt. Everything she did was amazing (Documentary Review: The Sublime ‘Linda Ronstadt, The Sound Of My Voice’).
  10. The Everly Brothers, “Maybellene” – I actually was torn between this version and the Foghat version so I’ve put both on this playlist. I feel like they vary enough I could get away with it.
  11. REO Speedwagon, “Little Queenie” – Again, I could have used the Stones’ version but what’s the fun in an all Stones’ playlist? This was from their 1972 second LP back when they still rocked and before they became sell out hacks. “Little Queenie” is one of Chuck’s more oft covered tracks.
  12. Stray Cats, “Beautiful Delilah” – I love the Stones’ version, especially on the On Air – Live At the BBC album but I’ve always kind of dug the Stray Cats. I saw them live by accident once at, of all places, Worlds Of Fun. Brian Setzer on guitar is the real deal.
  13. The Beatles, “Roll Over Beethoven” – I’m stunned it’s taken me this long to get around to a Beatles’ version of a Chuck song! ELO did a version but c’mon, you’re never gonna beat the Beatles doing Berry.
  14. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Carol (Live)” – In his later years Petty got into the blues and unsurprisingly it led him to Chuck Berry.
  15. Rod Stewart, “Sweet Little Rock n Roller” – From his oft wrongly maligned LP Smiler which marked the end of his fruitful Mercury years. This song is worth the price of the album alone.
  16. Johnny Cash & Carl Perkins, “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” – There are so many fabulous version of this track from Buddy Holly to Paul McCartney but you can’t beat two legends taking a turn on this one.
  17. The Rolling Stones, “Talkin’ About You” – Well, I didn’t say I was going to avoid all the Stones’ covers did I? Another great track.
  18. John Lennon, “Sweet Little Sixteen” – Lennon back with another Chuck song about a young girl… I sense a pattern here from Mr. Berry.
  19. The Beatles, “Rock And Roll Music” – The young Beatles at their ferocious best. Primal rock n roll here.
  20. Johnny Winter, “Thirty Days” – The legendary blues man doing a raucous version here. Johnny deserves more love… we just reviewed his brother Edgar’s tribute LP for Johnny, a must listen for fans of the blues. It’s like Johnny was meant to cover Chuck Berry.
  21. Santana, “Havana Moon” – Never has a song and a band been a more perfect match.
  22. The Pretty Things, “Oh Baby Doll” – One of Bowie’s favorite bands doing Chuck here. I’ve just recently gotten into these guys and they are awesome.
  23. Dave Clark Five, “Reelin’ And Rockin” – Was there any 60s era band that didn’t take a crack at a Chuck Berry song?
  24. Jimi Hendrix, “Johnny B Goode (Live At Berkley)” – This is a really manic version of this song but it works. Guitar God Jimi Hendrix giving a nod to the first real Guitar God, Chuck Berry. What’s not to love?
  25. Lovin’ Spoonful, “Almost Grown” – A great band that also deserves more love here at B&V. I’ve had several readers post their tracks as suggestions for our other playlists… I thought I’d beat them to the punch!
  26. John Hammond, “Nadine” – A new discovery for us here at B&V but love this track.
  27. George Thorogood & the Delware Destroyers, “No Particular Place To Go” – This song takes me back to high school and college, Thorogood’s heyday. He’s another example of a blues guy – who turned a John Lee Hooker tune into a hit (“One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”) – doing Chuck Berry.
  28. Foghat, “Maybelline” – Call me a product of the 70s but I will always love Foghat… especially that famous picture of them in front of the Holiday Inn marquee…
  29. The Band, “Back To Memphis (Outtake)” – I’ve been jamming on the Band’s album Cahoots for the last few weeks now I’m thinking I’ll have to dig into Moondog Matinee now too.
  30. Jerry Garcia Band, “You Never Can Tell (C’est La Vie)” – Seger did this song on a greatest hits compilation but I was just so delighted to be able to slip Jerry Garcia on this list. I’m sure there are countless Greatful Dead covers that rage on for 45 minutes but this one is a short and sweet track.
  31. Keith Richards, “Run Rudolph, Run” – This is a bonus track for all you Christmas music folks. Keith just loves Chuck.

I have to admit, I had to make some really tough choices. There are so many bands who did so many good versions of Chuck’s songs that it was hard to pick just one. And well, with “Maybellene” I couldn’t pick just one. At only 2 hours this is one rollicking, rocking playlist. The songs all hold together so well because Chuck had a magic formula. Lots of guitar.

Hopefully we’ve turned you on to Chuck Berry with this playlist, if you hadn’t already been into him. Or at the very least hopefully you’ve heard something new. Either way, I hope this rocking playlist helps get you through the summer heat.

Cheers! Stay cool out there… stay hydrated.

B&V Playlist: Songs About Sleeping, A “Celebration” Of Insomnia… For My Fellow Insomniacs – If We Can’t Sleep, Let’s Rock

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“To sleep, perchance to dream…” – Hamlet

I was on the road for work this week. That used to be a weekly experience in my chosen profession as a traveling salesman, but now it just feels weird. Everywhere you go there are different rules and protocols around masks and safety which leaves me feeling out of step with the locals. There are certainly more lax attitudes toward masks the farther below the Mason-Dixon line you travel. With all the work travel I’ve done in my career – and it’s a lot… I feel like I’ve spent half my adult life waiting around in airports trying to catch an earlier flight – you’d think I’d be used to staying in hotels. But as I was painfully reminded this week in Louisville (bourbon capitol of the world), I can’t sleep in hotel rooms. I don’t know if it’s the strange bed and surroundings that throw me off or if maybe flying does something to my inner ear that makes sleeping impossible on the road. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I can’t sleep when I travel, Lord knows I don’t sleep much better when I’m home.

I’ve always had a precarious relationship with sleep. I’ve had trouble turning my mind off and getting to sleep since I was a kid. Any more I can get myself to sleep but if I awake in the night, and I often do, I really struggle to get back to blissful sleep. They say you should get up and go read a book or something if you’re awake more than thirty minutes but in this tiny rental that I call the van down by the river where we live, I can’t make a move without waking the Rock Chick. That only compounds the problem: I’m up which is a drag but if I wake her, now I’m dealing with an angry, awakened spouse. As much as I hated it when she used to wake me up at 5:30am when she’d get up for work – she was raised on a farm… country people just get up early – her anger is doubled when I get out of bed at 3am and “walk the perimeter” as she describes my midnight wanderings. It doesn’t help that the cat sees me get up and thinks it’s time to eat and goes off like a tornado siren. It’s like he’s thinking, “Hey, we’re all up lets eat!” I had to negotiate with her early in our marriage to let me sleep until 9 on Saturdays and Sundays… they were my “sleep catch up days.”

My parents are partially to blame for my idiosyncrasies around sleeping. We moved when I was in fifth grade. I hated the elementary school I was attending but transferring to a new school seemed like an infinitely worse option. Let’s just say I was adverse to change. We changed my stepdaughter’s school a number of times when she was growing up and she adapted wonderfully with nary a complaint. What we didn’t realize was that we were just expanding her “criminal” network. She knew all the party kids in every school in town. It’s amazing what an upstanding citizen she’s become now… but I’m off track. When my parents moved us I reacted with the angry melodrama of a teenage girl… and I was an eleven year old boy. All of my bitching must have gotten to my parents because my bedroom was the last one to get any furniture. I had a bed and all my clothes were in boxes. In a fit of over-the-top complaining, I accidentally tore the rolling blinds off the window. I bent the metal clasp that held the damn thing and we couldn’t fix it. The window faced east. When the sun came up in the morning it felt like it was rising in my bedroom. After two days of being awakened at sunrise, I went to the linen closet and got a spare feather pillow that night and wrappedit tightly around my head. That provided darkness and silence. It was my “head fort.” Sadly, I got used to it and have had to sleep with a pillow on my head ever since. Try to explain that when you’re an adult and… entertaining… a young lady friend. “Yeah, I’m a freak, I sleep with a pillow on my head.” I also folded my hands on my chest Lilly Munster style which only sparked rumors that I might be a vampire.

When I reached college the people I lived with enjoyed messing with the kid with the pillow on his head. I didn’t sleep at night so I’d often sneak off and nap. My roommates would vie with each other on who got to wake me up. If I was in a really deep sleep and you shook me awake or called my name it would typically result in my screaming and throwing the pillow. It’s like I was terrified about waking up. I once famously exclaimed, while being awakened, “Sleep is hell.” With all of these people hazing me when I was asleep, it’s a wonder that I was able to nod off at all. Drinking didn’t even help. It would help you get to sleep but once your body burns off the alcohol the sugar wakes you up and I mean WAKES you up. There’s nothing like being slightly hungover and wired at 3am sitting on the edge of the bed and re-litigating every bad decision you’ve ever made. I guess I would amend my statement from college to “Waking up is hell.”

Today it’s not much easier to sleep. Uncertainties in the political landscape, the pandemic still hanging on, the Chiefs playing like shit and work being more stressful than ever all combine to keep me awake for days. I literally can’t let my mind wander too far in any direction or I’m up pacing the floor until the cat emits his visceral “meow” and then the Rock Chick is yelling, “What the fuck are you doing,” and I’ve got a full scale insomniac disaster on my hands. People, the struggles are real. I can’t help but remember when I was a kid and it was bed time how I’d stall and stall. My parents would have to battle with me to go to bed. I’d beg to watch the news so I could see the sports… then it was Carson’s monologue… Finally my parents just put an old black-and-white portable TV in my room and hoped I’d eventually fall asleep. Anything to get me out of the living room and upstairs. Now, I can’t wait to lay down. From there I just have to hope my mind cooperates and I can drift off. I often do the B&V version of counting sheep – I name my albums, alphabetically by artist… I start with AC/DC’s Back In Black and if I make it all the way to Cream I know I’m probably not gonna go to sleep.

I was laying awake in a Louisville Hilton this week worrying about something or other and so I got up and fished out my iTouch from the computer bag. I was shuffling through some music. I started with some recent stuff, Mellencamp’s new song “Wasted Days,” and Bowie’s covers songs (“Trying To Get To Heaven”) but then started randomly selecting stuff. I heard the Beatles “I’m Only Sleeping,” and then “I’m So Tired.” I realized I might be onto something. If I can’t sleep I might as well rock and roll. I started stringing tracks together on the theme of sleep and waking up and pretty soon I had 50 songs. I realize that sleep can often be a metaphor for death so I ended up excluding the great blues rock track “Sleeping In the Ground” from Blind Faith. If there are any other great tunes on this subject, put them in the “comments” section and I’ll add them to the Spotify playlist. Here are my picks:

  1. The Beatles, “I’m Only Sleeping” – The track that gave me the idea… I’ve been listening to a lot of Beatles lately
  2. Billy Joel, “Sleeping With The Television On” – I personally can’t sleep with any light or noise in the room so no TV for me. It’s hard to watch TV with a pillow on your head. From his great punk-influenced record Glass Houses.
  3. Audioslave, “Wide Awake” – Great rock song, “I found you guilty of the crime of sleeping when you should have been wide awake.” Rest assured Audioslave… I’m always wide awake.
  4. Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie, “Sleeping Around the Corner” – From their great self-titled LP, there’s also a Lindsey solo version out there.
  5. Smashing Pumpkins, “In The Arms of Sleep” – Deep cut from their magnum opus Melon Collie & The Infinite Sadness.
  6. R.E.M., “Daysleeper” – Oh how I miss napping. The Rock Chick frowns on the practice… marriage is a compromise. Y’know, Elvis was a “daysleeper.”
  7. The Beatles, “I’m So Tired” – Indeed I am…
  8. The Cure, “Lullaby” – A song about a man being eaten by a spider. Don’t even get me started on my dreams…
  9. The Rolling Stones, “Who’s Been Sleeping Here?” – I don’t think the person this is addressed to is doing much sleeping but I do think they’re having more fun than I am.
  10. Starcrawler, “Born Asleep” – Great song from a great new-ish band.
  11. U2, “Sleep Like A Baby Tonight” – People were mad about Songs of Innocence but there’s some good stuff on it.
  12. Jack White, “I Guess I Should Go To Sleep” – I love Jack White. Check out his new tune “Taking Me Back.”
  13. Smithereens, “Behind The Wall of Sleep” – I’ve only recently discovered the Smithereens. What a great rock band.
  14. Graham Nash, “Sleep Song” – From his first solo album.
  15. The Cult, “Wake Up Time For Freedom” – A very relevant call to arms in today’s troubled, divided times.
  16. Eddie Money, “We Should Be Sleeping” – A barrel-house rocker. I love the Money Man.
  17. The Pretenders, “I Go To Sleep” – From their great 2nd LP.
  18. Cream, “Sleepy, Sleepy Time” – So many rock bands have explored this topic.
  19. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, “I’m Tired Joey Boy” – A live cover of a Van Morrison song. I just like this version better.
  20. Pearl Jam, “Sleeping By Myself” – Also done solo by Vedder on a ukulele.
  21. Metallica, “Until It Sleeps” – My all time favorite Metallica song. I can’t explain it… this track gets me pumped up which perhaps means I shouldn’t be listening to it while trying to sleep.
  22. Norah Jones, “Wake Me Up” – That voice… I’d pay to have her come sit by my bed and sing me to sleep. Only B&V would put Norah Jones and Metallica on the same playlist. Open your minds, folks.
  23. Robert Plant, “Your Ma Said You Cried In Your Sleep Last Night” – I love this bizarre deep track.
  24. Beastie Boys, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” – Iconic rap rock.
  25. John Mellencamp, “Warmer Place To Sleep” – I’ve always loved this funky rocker.
  26. The Modern Lovers, “I Wanna Sleep In Your Arms” – I love these weird bastards.
  27. Fiona Apple, “Sleep To Dream” – I’ve been a fan of hers since the beginning. This track is from her debut.
  28. Jack White, “Weep Themselves To Sleep” – I can’t wait for his next solo album.
  29. Warren Zevon, “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” – There’s so much essential Zevon out there.
  30. The Kinks, “Sleepwalker” – I feel like the Kinks don’t get enough attention on B&V. I need to work on that.
  31. Jimmy Page & the Black Crowes, “Woke Up This Morning” – Page & the Crowes doing a live cover of an old blues track.
  32. Nirvana, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” – I think Cobain was secretly a blues fan.
  33. Bob Marley & The Wailers, “Wake Up and Live” – Wise advice from Bob.
  34. Leonard Cohen, “Lullaby” – I love late period Cohen. The voice is gravelly but his last few records are the type that B&V was founded to extol.
  35. Peter Wolf, “Sleepless” – Title track from his best solo LP.
  36. John Lennon, “How Do You Sleep?” – His angry song aimed at McCartney. This is just such a hateful track. But if I were to answer John, it’d be, “not very well.”
  37. Paul Simon, “Insomniac’s Lullaby” – This could have been the title of this playlist.
  38. Jackson Browne, “Sleeps Dark And Silent Gate” – This one is clearly a metaphor for death… in this case I believe written for his late wife after she committed suicide. It’s too pretty a song to exclude.
  39. Tom Petty, “Wake Up Time” – From his masterpiece Wildflowers.
  40. Billy Idol, “Endless Sleep” – Another great deep track.
  41. R.E.M., “I Don’t Sleep I Dream” – I don’t do either, really.
  42. The Romantics, “Talking In Your Sleep” – I sometimes wake up screaming… No talking, literally screaming. Sleep is hell.
  43. Billy Joel, “Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel)” – A lovely track written for his daughter.
  44. The Wallflowers, “Sleepwalker” – I always thought Jakob Dylan’s group was a solid rock band.
  45. David Bowie, “Let Me Sleep Beside You” – From the aborted Toy album which will finally see release this year.
  46. Ozzy Osbourne, “So Tired” – Produced by Jeff Lynne of ELO fame. Truly strange bedfellows.
  47. Eddie Vedder, “Sleepless Nights” – From the aforementioned ukulele based solo album.
  48. Tom Waits, “Midnight Lullaby” – From his brilliant debut album.
  49. Queen, “Sleeping On The Sidewalk” – This reminds me of a funny story about my brother in college, but those records are sealed.
  50. The Rolling Stones, “Sleep Tonight” – A perfect place to end this list… A Keith song and a ballad no less.

There ya go folks! Again, if I missed any, put them in the comments section and I’ll add them to the Spotify playlist. I like to think of these playlists as “ours” vs “mine.” If you’re an insomniac like me, here’s hoping that you’ll fall asleep soon. If not, hopefully these tracks will entertain you while the rest of the world is sleeping.

Cheers!