As attentive readers know, the theme of this piece is great songs by different artists that share the same title. In the first article on this subject, we learned to “Walk Like a Man” with The Four Season and Bruce Springsteen (but forgot Grand Funk), we observed “Love Is All Around” from the Troggs and Joan Jett, and we were infatuated with “Starry Eyes” by The Records and Roky Erickson.
In this final installment, we countdown THE BEST SONGS EVER that share the same title. Stay tuned next week as we countdown the best Scandinavian rap waltzes about wolverine monogamy.
15. “I Want You,” Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello. Quite possibly the simplest theme in popular music, you can dial up songs by Savage Garden, Cheap Trick, KISS, Marvin Gaye, Kings of Leon, Common, Kelly Clarkson, Third Eye Blind, Cee Lo Green, etc., etc., etc. with this title. Dylan gives the concept a cryptic turn on his Blonde on Blonde Top 20 hit, while Costello wallows in wrist slitting agony.
14. “I’m Not in Love,” 10cc, Talking Heads. Tori Amos and Queen Latifah have contributed distaff versions of this theme, but the #1 10cc pop hit, where four vocalists were overdubbed repeatedly to the point of creating a 256 voice “virtual choir” is the loveless song for the ages. David Byrne throws some of his late ‘70s white boy funk into the theme.
13. “Wild Thing,” The Troggs, Tone-Loc. The Troggs win the chart battle, scoring a #1 hit, while Tone-Loc stalled at #2 behind Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up.” In my perfect world, Loc would be raking in Morgan Freeman voiceover millions.
12. “Bye Bye Love,” Everly Brothers, The Cars. If Bruce Springsteen is the king of song title theft, then Ric Ocasek must be the prince. He paid homage to Buddy Holly by nicking the titles “Maybe Baby” and “Think it Over,” and reconfigured the Elvis title “The Girl of My Best Friend” to “My Best Friend’s Girl.” The Everly Brothers own the pop charts on this one, but if you grew up in the ‘70s, hearing that first Cars album on your stereo headphones was a TRIPPY EXPERIENCE, MAN!
11. “Only the Lonely,” Roy Orbison, The Motels. Frank Sinatra recorded a song with this title in 1958, but it was Orbison’s operatic melodrama that hit the airwaves in 1960. Martha Davis and the Motels checked into the Top Ten with the theme in 1982.
10. “Tunnel of Love,” Bruce Springsteen, Dire Straits. Two years after Springsteen’s first marriage, he released essentially a concept album about his fear of commitment. Shockingly, less than two years after “Tunnel of Love” was released, Bruce was a divorced man. Similarly, Mark Knopfler narrates excitement, romance, and loss on the carnival scene.
9. “Forever Young,” Alphaville, Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart. From Peter Pan to Tom Waits, avoiding the aging phenomenon has always been a popular concept. German synth pop band Alphaville had a major international hit in 1984 with “Forever Young,” but it’s best known in the States for a pensive scene in Napoleon Dynamite. Dylan is in a jaunty mood in his 1974 recording with The Band, while Stewart’s 1988 pop hit repeated Dylan’s theme so strongly that Bob received a retroactive writing credit.
8. “Good Times,” Sam Cooke, Chic. The Sam Cooke number was a pop hit for Cooke, was covered by the Rolling Stones, and was a #1 country single for Dan Seals (who was a member of English Dan & John Ford Coley and the younger brother of Jim Seals of Seals & Crofts fame – the ‘70s were a good time for duos with ampersands). Chic was kind enough to give us not only a #1 pop hit, but their “Good Times” also serves as the basis for “Rapper’s Delight” and “Another One Bites the Dust.”
7. “I Want You Back,” Hoodoo Gurus, Jackson 5. The Jackson 5 debut single was the first of four #1 pop hits. Aussie garage rockers the Hoodoo Gurus released an underappreciated classic with the same title in 1984. Rock NYC will not substantiate the rumors that NSYNC has also recorded a song with the same name.
6. “Family Affair,” Mary J. Blige, Sly & The Family Stone. There’s A Riot Goin’ On was an artistic peak for Sly & Company and “Family Affair” was their last #1 single. Producer Dr. Dre and vocalist Mary J. Blige GOT CRUNK, PEOPLE – topping the pop charts for six weeks in 1991
5. “I Saw the Light,” Hank Williams, Todd Rundgren. There may not be a better representation of the songwriting genuis of Hank Williams than “I Saw the Light,” a gospel number so timeless it sounds like it was chiseled in stone by the apostles. Rundgren demonstrated his ‘70s singer/songwriter perfection with the lead track from Something/Anything. Wynonna Judd and Spoon have also seen the light, but with less clarity.
4. “Bad Reputation,” Joan Jett, Freedy Johnston. Thin Lizzy got to this concept first, but lacked the snarling contempt than young Joan displayed. Poor, sad Freedy can’t shake the love of his life, seven years after the breakup asking/pleading “Do you want me now?/Do you want me now?” Probably not, Freedy. Get a tattoo and a motorcyle. Chicks love a bad boy.
3. “Crazy,” Patsy Cline, Gnarls Barkley, Seal. This is almost an insane embarrassment of riches – you get the greatest female voice in country music popularizing a Willie Nelson classic, a song that Rolling Stone rated as the best of the 2000s, and a guy named after a fin-footed, semi aquatic marine mammal.
2. “Runaway,” Del Shannon, Kanye West. Two absolute classics that couldn’t be more different. Del marries a sweet guitar lick to a unique clavioline keyboard while his wa-wa-wa-wa-wondering vocals sell the tale of pain. Kanye’s self confessions of a douchebag might be my favorite song of the past of the past five years. The curse of a critic – “I’m so gifted at finding what I don’t like the most.”
1. “Don’t Worry Baby,” Beach Boys, Los Lobos. Is Brian Wilson from another planet? The songwriting, tbe beautiful arrangements, the immaculate harmonies – it’s all supernatural. The man has fulfilled one of the most unique and idiosyncratic visions in pop music history. And, get this, “Don’t Worry Baby” was a B-SIDE! You know, the place where you slotted the worst album track that you had. The A-Side (“I Get Around”) wasn’t shabby either. On the other paw, Los Lobos slaps you upside the head with fiery blues licks and Howlin’ Wolf like growling vocals. Crank it up and marvel at how rock ‘n’ roll can be simultaneously lean and galvanizing.
too on the nose
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The venue is deeply symbolic
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