Matt Erickson’s Top 100 Songs. #60-56.
I really have no idea what this song is about. But I’d been thinking about the same girl for three years, obsessed over the track listing on CDs I’d make for her, thinking I could cue an emotional epiphany, like in those lying fucking movies, where the main characters lock eyes in cinematic crescendo. Instead, she just moved away, and I was condemned to supporting-character status (the Bill Pullman or Cary Elwes of her life). The day her U-Haul droned off, I noticed this song for the first time, and played it over and over. It was like tonguing a sore tooth to see if it still hurts. The singer sounds like he’s taken similar boots to the jaw, but he gets up and staggers forward anyway, ready for the next beat-down, much to the chagrin of the bland leading men who simply want him out of the picture. From Universal Audio (2004).
As you might have guessed from the last caption, gangsta rap never described any reality I’ve ever lived in. Soul mates? Dre has bigger fish to fry:
“I make a phone call my niggaz comin’ like the Gotti boys
bodies bein’ found on Greenleaf
with their fuckin heads cut off, motherfucker i’m Dre”
Yes, we know you are all very tough and scary; as my dad would say, “oh, we’re ALL very impressed.” While the words are interchangeable generic boasting, words aren’t the way some things are best expressed – lust, swagger, and territorial threats need something more inarticulate, primal, muscular. Bypassing the brain, going straight for the gut. No, further down. Love those snaky keyboards too. From The Chronic (1992).
58. Led Zeppelin / In My Time of Dying
I recorded this song off the radio when I was nine or so, not knowing what it was except that it was Led Zeppelin – my first favorite band – and that was all I needed to know. While it was playing, my mom called me down to the basement to help me kill a mouse. A trap had pinned one of its hind legs and the mouse, in a frantic escape attempt, pulled its own leg off and left it in the trap. Crippled, it was easy to corner, and we were able to gobble it up with a paper Meijer bag, dump it in the toilet, and flush it. With unbelievable tenacity, the little mouse and it’s three limbs swam like Michael Phelps against the toilet’s current. It took three or four flushes before the little thing finally tuckered out and was swallowed away forever. Whew.
Shit! I left the tape recording! I run back upstairs to my room, ready to dive for the ‘STOP’ button – only to realize the song was still fucking going. That’s right, King Zeppelin will take as much time as they please. A long, slow death, with lots of amazing drumming. A properly epic eulogy for a Rasputin-like creature who endured the torture of losing a limb in our basement, then his life in our bathroom; wait, I never watched it, but isn’t that the movie Saw? From Physical Graffiti (1975).
Some people are suckers for any sensitive soul with disheveled hair whispering over an acoustic guitar. Not me. Rather, I’m a sucker for the organ or keyboard chord that adds texture – or in this case, a scorching laser that burns a hole in its target. The lyrics here forgo postmodern ambiguity, and instead locate a clear villain – and they aren’t whispered, but spat out. It’s even creepier now, knowing that L.A. is where he died. Wasn’t it supposed to kill Anthony Kiedis instead? From Either/Or (1997).
The Treasures don’t even have a Wikipedia page, which means the group members themselves probably forgot they were in the band. The real artist here is Phil Spector, who took a sunny-day early Beatles song (ironically, he’d later be charged with ruining their final album) and whisked it away in a hot air balloon. The thing feels completely weightless, with strings reaching higher and higher and the rhythm section exploding like fresh popcorn. These days, anything regarding Spector’s influence prompts a near-moral dilemma (see: Phil Spector link above); do you save the old lady from the burning building, or the Back to Mono master tapes? But this song has no traces of the wormy psychosis we’d witness later. Like the best things in life, it’s beautiful and uncomplicated. From the Back to Mono (1958-1969) collection. (Only available for download from The Phil Spector Collection).
Looking for something a little more thorny and twisty? Porcelain dolls, lined on a bookshelf, mouths moving but eyes unblinking, provide the background sha-la-las. The chorus occasionally wrestles its way out of a muck of strings, horns, and ghostly choirs, the apparition of these voices in the wall of sound. From perhaps the greatest collection of music ever released, Back to Mono (1958-1969) collection. (Only available for download from The Phil Spector Collection).
List so far ~
100. Elton John ~ Funeral for a Friend
99. Dave Schramm ~ Hammer and Nails
98. The Bob Seger System ~ 2 + 2 = ?
97. The Young Generation ~ The Hideaway
96. Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie ~ Belle and Sebastian
95. The Cars ~ Drive
94. Moose ~ The Only Man in Town
93. Wire ~ French Film Blurred
92. King Crimson ~ Starless
91. The Only Ones ~ The Whole of the Law
90. Daniel Johnston ~ Grievances
89. The Rolling Stones ~ Rocks Off
88. Wipers ~ Youth of America
87. Heart ~ Alone
86. The Stone Roses ~ Sugar Spun Sister
85. Joe Pernice ~ Bum Leg
84. My Bloody Valentine ~ To Here Knows When
83. Gene Clark ~ Some Misunderstanding
82. Electric Light Orchestra ~ Can’t Get it Out of my Head
81. Ride ~ Vapour Trail
80. Rush ~ 2112
79. Pere Ubu ~ Final Solution
78. Gary Wright ~ Dream Weaver
77. John Hiatt ~ Cry Love
76. The Go-Betweens ~ Clouds
75. Asia ~ Only Time Will Tell
74. The House of Love ~ Man to Child
73. Talk Talk ~ After the Flood
72. Seal ~ Prayer for the Dying
71. Brian Eno ~ Spider and I
70. Red House Painters ~ Mistress
69. Boy Meets Girl ~ Waiting for a Star to Fall
68. Metallica ~ Fade to Black
67. Chris Bell ~ Speed of Sound
66. The Soft Boys ~ Queen of Eyes
65. Head East ~ Never Been Any Reason
64. The Chameleons UK ~ Second Skin
63. Big Star ~ The Ballad of El Goodo
62. Guns ‘n’ Roses ~ November Rain
61. Queensryche ~ Silent Lucidity
60. The Delgados ~ Get Action!
59. Dr. Dre ~ Let Me Ride
58. Led Zeppelin ~ In my Time of Dying
57. Elliott Smith ~ Angeles
56. The Treasures ~ Hold Me Tight
Laura Cantrell ~ Hammer and Nails
King Missile ~ Sensitive Artist
Eric Carmen ~ Make Me Lose Control
Bone Thugs-n-Harmony ~ Tha Crossroads
Coldplay ~ Speed of Sound
Big Star ~ Kangaroo
Darlene Love ~ Strange Love