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My Ten Favorite Tunes By My Favorite Ten Bands

Obscure Peter Cetera References Abound

Obscure Peter Cetera References Abound

Keeping your slot in the high-pressure world of the rock blogosphere isn’t all ice cream and no stick litter box spray. The people at corporate headquarters will often hint subtly at your terminal thin ice. From the demonic voice in Gotham, “Hey, Crawford, I got this hungry twelve year old tribal kid in Kazakhstan that appears to be an expert on transsexual West German hip hop waltzes. You want to send me a piece or do you want the next set of black market scratch off tickets to go directly to Central Asia?”

So, it was suggested that I might want to submit an article on my favorite songs by my ten favorite bands or spend the rest of my career dissecting Peter Cetera’s contribution to the Mexican milkweed underwear industry for Granola Bong Hit magazine’s South American edition. And let’s not talk about my relationship with international customs officials.

OK, I passed over some obvious groups like the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Beer on the Penguin, and Big Fat Pet Clams from Outer Space for other periodic obsessions. Let the favoritism begin.

1. “New San Antonio Rose,” Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. Steeping, germination, and drying are the three steps of the basic malting process. “New San Antonio Rose” was a three-step process as well. The first step, slyly named for the sake of confusion, was recording the instrumental “Spanish Two Step” in 1935. In 1938, Wills rewrote “Spanish Two Step” as an instrumental titled “San Antonio Rose.” A publishing company urged Wills to record the song with lyrics and in 1940 “New San Antonio Rose” was recorded. It would become one of the most famous songs about the Lone Star State and the world’s most famous Western swing band’s signature tune. Enjoy the recording with your favorite malt beverage.

2. “Waterloo Sunset,” The Kinks. As much as I love “Shangri-La,” Ray Davies’ account of quiet middle class desperation, I’m not sure there has ever been a more beautiful song than “Waterloo Sunset.” The chords/harmonies/lyrics are all masterful. The concept of overcoming loneliness by seeing happiness in others wonderfully translates positive empathy into hope.

3. “Powderfinger,” Neil Young and Crazy Horse. For me, there’s never been another band that’s defined what rock ‘n’ roll should sound like more than Neil Young and Crazy Horse – a solid, simple, raw rhythm section in the back with Young’s raging guitar solos flapping across the landscape like a scorching summer wind. Depending on my mood, I could name any number of NY/CH songs as my fave, but this coming of age hillbilly homestead firefight is Neil at his enigmatic best.

4. “Standing on the Edge,” Cheap Trick. Plenty of more obvious choices, but this 1985 album title track is a forgotten gem. Robin Zander has an encounter with an alien that results in a sexual act. Unfortunately, the band wasn’t big enough for tabloid fodder in the mid-80s or we could have all enjoyed “Sperm Carrying Alien or Just Another Cheap Trick?” headlines.

5. “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg,” Ramones. While the Ramones often had a simple gabba gabba hey, stoopid image, Joey and Dee Dee were smart, passionate writers. As a Jewish person, Joey was outraged when President Reagan visited a cemetery in Germany where Waffen-SS (i.e., Nazi) soldiers were buried. Who hasn’t felt this way, “If there’s one thing that makes me sick/It’s when people try to hide behind politics.”

6. “Eight Miles High,” Husker Du. Husker Du had established themselves as masters of highly charged melodic punk music in the mid-80s, before taking on The Byrds’ folk rock meets psychedelia 1966 hit. Bob Mould howls with absolutely scary intensity. This has to be better catharsis, and cheaper, than seeing a shrink.

7. “Ana Ng,” They Might Be Giants. They Might Be Giants has a reputation as a novelty band, but if you peeked behind the curtain, their subject matter is often pensive. On “Ana Ng,” the singer desperately seeks his soul mate, who he has probably never met. He races against time to find her, otherwise knowing he faces a lifetime of loneliness.

8. “Left of the Dial,” The Replacements. Newly reformed and bigger than ever, the Replacements were the New York Dolls of the ‘80s, the great commercial rock ‘n ‘roll failure of the decade. Westerberg had a sensitive singer/songwriter soul who just happened to be leading the messiest and most exciting band of its time. On “Left of the Dial,” he maintains a romantic relationship through the college radio airwaves.

9. “Welfare Music,” The Bottle Rockets. Based out of Festus, Missouri, The Bottle Rockets chronicled small town life with equal parts disdain, pride, and empathy. On “Welfare Music,” they took the radical step of actually showing compassion for an unwed mother that needs public assistance. Always be alert my fellow Americans, the Commies are everywhere.

10. “Zip City,” Drive-By Truckers. Zip City is an actual wide spot in the road, unincorporated community in northern Alabama. Mike Cooley remembers wrestling with his teenage girlfriend’s parents and her chastity belt in this angst anthem, that doesn’t have a chorus. He eventually determines why the relationship is doomed. He’s going places, she isn’t.

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