The 500 Greatest Songs of the 1990s – 250 to 241
250. “Radio Song,” R.E.M. Songwriters: Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe; Did Not Chart; 1991. “Radio Song” is an oddity in the R.E.M. catalogue, pairing their shimmering guitar work with the defiant voice of rapper KRS-One. Michael Stipe on this anti-radio song by a band who had become a staple on Top 40 radio, “I hope people have enough of a sense of humor to realize I’m kind of taking the piss of everyone, myself included. Hopefully, they’ll get the humorous intent of the song, with my opening plea about the world collapsing and KRS-One’s closing rap, which I find really funny and thought provoking.” Author Johnny Black, “The involvement of KRS-One was a radical move, probably the first time a major white act had invited a hip-hop artist to collaborate in their music. Peter Buck, “I don’t think people noticed what we had done in getting KRS-One in. That’s partly because radio stations wouldn’t play it, because it had rapping on it.”
249. “Found Out About You,” Gin Blossoms. Songwriter: Doug Hopkins; #25 pop; 1993. “Found Out About You” is a song about destructive love, the kind of loss that haunts a man – “I write your name, drive past your house/Your boyfriend’s over, I watch your lights go out.” The Gin Blossoms originally recorded “Found Out About You” in 1989, but it became a hit off the 1993 “New Miserable Experience” album. The band merged 1960’s pop values with 1990’s angst and production values. Singer Robin Wilson in 2017 reflecting on songwriter Doug Hopkins, who committed suicide in 1993, “Doug had so much talent. I liken him to a Noel Gallagher. He could have been this bandleader that would have really had a huge impact on the music of the day. I think he knew that was right there for him, and instead of stepping up and taking a real leadership role, he fell in the other direction. It still is heart-wrenching to think about what could have been.”
248. “Nine Bullets,” Drive-By Truckers. Songwriter: Patterson Hood; Did Not Chart; 1999. Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley have been performing together since 1985, with acts named Adam’s Cat, Virgil Kane, and the probably never booked Horsepussy. The Truckers formed in 1996, giving Hood a platform for his sloppy, big heart and Cooley a chance to shine as an unregenerate badass. Their 1999 album was titled “Pizza Deliverance” (legend has it that our two heroes once worked at a Florence, Alabama pizza joint) and the band put their Southern drawl vocals over grunge guitars on “Nine Bullets.” Hood details how he’ll distribute the ammo in his roommate’s gun, noting that a lady who steals one of his socks at the laundromat is going to catch a bullet. This is one of the perkier songs, attitude wise, from the early DBTs era.
247. “This is the Day,” Ivy. Songwriters: Andy Chase, Adam Schlesinger, Dominique Durand; Did Not Chart; 1997. Ivy was New York band comprised of Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne, multi-instrumentalist Andy Chase, and French singer French singer Dominique Durand. “This is the Day” is a wonderfully upbeat song, despite that it seems to be lyrically about either prostitution or sexual abuse. Adam Schlesinger, “That one was written on guitars. It was this jangly thing and then we thought it’d be fun to give it a ’60s horn flavor. I kind of remember singing those horn lines before. We sort of conceived it that way from the beginning, going “Baa-daaaa!” [Laughs.] You know, just with our mouths.” Songwriter Schlesinger on his ability to cross pollinate, “It’s seeing the similarities between all these genres. On the surface they seem really different, but when you really get into it, they’re not that different. They’re superficial things.”
246. “All I Know,” Screaming Trees. Songwriters: Gary Lee Conner, Van Conner, Mark Lanegan; Did Not Chart; 1996. Due to timing and geography, Screaming Trees were lumped into the grunge movement. However, their 1996 Modern Rock hit “All I Know” was pure classic rock, from the “I Am the Walrus” intro to the wah wah guitar solo that aped Peter Frampton. Billboard, “The emotive, multi-layered ’All I Know’ provides one of the catchiest examples of the Seattle band’s distinctive brand of psychedelic rock.” Author Steve Taylor, “Tracks like ‘Halo of Ashes’ with its coral sitar and ‘All I Know’ featuring Benmont Tench’s refreshing electric piano are the best American rock has sounded in the last 20 years.” Also, in perfect classic rock form, the outro is much longer than it needs to be.
245. “To Earth with Love,” Gay Dad. Songwriters: Nick Crowe, Cliff Jones, Nigel, Hoyle, James Risebero; Did Not Chart; 1999. “To Earth with Love” is a rocket ship explosion of a single, using ‘70s hard rock power chords while name checking Kraftwerk. The band was fronted by singer Cliff Jones, a former U.K. journalist for “Mojo” and “The Face,” and this Top Ten U.K. hit may have lyrically inspired U2’s “Beautiful Day.” “To Earth with Love” sounds like a band making a great single while simultaneously spoofing the concept of arena rock, while the outro feels like a hat tip to David Bowie. Lauded as the saviors of U.K. rock, Gay Dad wasn’t built for long term success. Cliff Jones, “We got shot out of the cannon, then things started to get out of control, and as rapidly as we went up, we came down again.”
244. “I Wish I Could Have Been There,” John Anderson. Songwriters: John Anderson, Kent Robbins; #4 country; 1993. Harry Chapin made a fortune by reporting on his inattentive parenting skills in the 1970s with “Cat’s in the Cradle.” John Anderson voiced his regrets on the price of success from the perspective of a traveling musician who misses his daughter being born and his son’s athletic exploits on “I Wish I Could Have Been There.” Country singer Josh Turner, “There are so many people who have experienced a song like this, missing certain moments in their life and wishing they hadn’t.” Some perspective on Anderson’s talent from Jon Langford of The Mekons, “There’s no one since him who comes from that long tradition of great country singers. He’s the last country singer I really listened to.”
243. “Father/Daughter Dialogue,” Loudon Wainwright III (featuring Martha Wainwright). Songwriter: Loudon Wainwright; Did Not Chart; 1995. Loudon Wainwright III is possibly the most self-absorbed prick in the history of the singer/songwriter genre and he’s generally treated his children like objects for source material. I’m not sure whether I love him in spite or because of these qualities. On “Father/Daughter Dialogue,” Martha Wainwright, the offspring of Loudon and Kate McGarrigle, calls out Loudon for being a terminally absent father and trying to gain sympathy via his music. Dad responds by saying that his songs are all shtick. Martha turned the tables on Loudon by naming an EP in his honor in 2005. It was titled “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole.”
242. “Valerie Loves Me,” Material Issue. Songwriter: Jim Ellison; Did Not Chart; 1991. The power pop trio Material Issue were based out of Chicago, but sounded like a U.K. band on the unrequited rocker “Valerie Loves Me.” Annie Zed of Salon, “Material Issue released three incredible records, including 1991’s ‘International Pop Overthrow,’ which spawned this jangly power-pop classic. Deceptively upbeat, the sly song is from the point of view of a protagonist too shy (or too uncool) to catch the eye of a beautiful woman — who he then envisions growing old by herself; at that point, he has the last word: ‘But she can’t have me.’” Their legacy within their community has been cemented by the International Pop Overthrow festival that plays annually in L.A., New York, and Chicago, a power pop showcase named after Material Issue’s most famous album.
241. “Pretend We’re Dead,” L7. Songwriter: Donita Sparks; Did Not Chart; 1992. The L.A. based, female rock band L7 scored a Top Ten hit on the Billboard “Alternative Rock” chart with the apathy ode “Pretend We’re Dead.” For a band that got tossed into both the grunge and riot grrrl movements, the synth hook is very traditional pop move. Donita Sparks, “Of course we wanted a hit, but when you get a hit, if you’re from the underground, you get almost embarrassed about your hit. I love bubblegum. I love the Archies, I love the Beatles, and at the time, I was really trying to suppress that side. I didn’t know what I was doing; I was just doing it. It’s the greatest feeling to see people on a dance floor dancing to your song. There’s nothing wrong with catchy in my mind, but at the time, I would have to suppress that because we were a hard-rock band. The kids just wanted to go apeshit to that song.”