All the Apples Fell on Me
#100: “Witches Promise,” Jethro Tull (1970) Stuff I think about all the time: 1) Was O.J. guilty? I mean, I’m 99.3% sure he was guilty, but I need to know for sure--I need to be transported back to Brentwood on that awful night, silently watching from behind some foliage, watching it all unfold, or at least placed there long enough to see his face. I wouldn’t want to witness the actual killings. 2) Why does everyone give President Obama such a hard time? He’s trying to do his work in the mid- dle of something resembling The Gong Show, pulled in eight thousand different directions at once. And he’s just barely halfway into his first term. The hysteria is deafening and depressing. 3) How does one go about dancing to Jethro Tull? For a brief moment in the early ‘70s, did people invent dances like “The Aqualung,” “The Locomotive Breath,” and “The Fat Man”? When I’m overcome with excitement at hearing my favourite Jethro Tull song, what should I do--how should I express myself? One of those questions is answered here. Turns out you just kind of sway gently, as you contem- plate wandering maidens and forest greenery. #99: “Buttercups,” Dressy Bessy (2002) And if you can’t sway to Jethro Tull, try this. (As I left my room to do some photocopying this morning, I left two other teachers to watch the Tull clip on my computer. From all accounts they had vacated the room within 45 seconds, and were quite traumatized by the experience.) “Buttercups” is typical of the way I’ve found most of the (relatively) newer music I’ve loved the last two or three years: through a handful of blogs I check regularly, chief among them Wilfully Obscure and Take the Pills. (Dressy Bessy I found on another one called PowerPop Overdose.) These blogs will post regularly for a year or two, then one day--for reasons I don’t have to explain-- they’re gone. Wilfully Obscure and Take the Pills have managed to last much longer than most. As for the morality of getting your music that way, well, I don’t really want to get into that here. I’m sure I’ll eventually burn in hell many times over, with lots of friends and acquaintances around to keep me company. The song: Marcus once wrote that the Primitives’ “Crash” (somewhere on my Radio On Top 100; I went with their “Stop Killing Me” instead on my CKLN list) had the bounce of “Summertime, Summertime” (or maybe it was the lift of “Summertime, Summertime”--I can’t remember if it had bounce or lift). “Crash” is just shy of 25 years old at this point; we’re almost as far from it as it was from the Jamies. That’s enough of a remove that it makes sense to say that “Buttercups” has the bounce and/ or lift of “Crash.” #98: “Red, White and MILF,” Figghole (2008) I’ll sneak this in early, being the most topical and time-sensitive pick on my list (even though I’m now into my second year of loving it); I suspect that if its subject should ever disappear from view, Figghole’s outrageous Wasillapalooza will likewise drop out of sight and out of mind forever. (Truthfully, it’s barely known by anybody right now.) But for as long as the Dreaded One is out there wreaking havoc on everything and everybody in her path, it’s not really a question of whether I should be listing it or not--to paraphrase Homer Simpson, “I don’t see how I can afford not to list it, Marge.” You’ll need to sign in to YouTube to get past the warning. If you haven’t heard this, and don’t have an account, it’s worth your trouble to set one up. (I briefly considered trying to write this comment in Palinese, but if I ventured down that rabbit hole, I’m not sure that I’d ever find my way out.) #97: “Spiegel im Spiegel,” Arvo Pärt (1995) A co-worker this morning: “Why don’t you choose nice songs, like Scott?” Okay--to clear your mind of Figghole, something I’d never heard as recently as a year ago, with a clip from the film where I first heard it. It was actually written in ’78; the version I have, from a Part album named Alina, is only one of what I’m guessing are numerous versions out there. It’s got tonic triads, repeated endlessly--I found that out on Wikipedia. Brace yourself: this is one of the best car chases ever committed to celluloid. #96: “Over and Over,” Twiggy (1967) As always, some songs on this list will have to stand in for others I more or less love just as much. Twiggy gets the nod for the Sashay-and-Shante Runway crowd, edging out Nico (“These Days” or “I’m Not Saying”), Claudine Longet (“Small Talk”), Francoise Hardy (excellent cover of “Till the Morning Comes”), and RuPaul (no, not really). Amazingly enough--I didn’t even know Twiggy made rec- ords till a few years ago--her “When I Think of You” was a contender too. Not to cast aspersions on other people’s favourite music, but that’s two more great songs than I found on P.J. Harvey’s To Bring You My Love the one time I managed to struggle through it. (I’m sure that one day I will hear a P.J. Harvey song I like.) Neither the Notorious B.I.G. nor the Stooges made my list. So I promise you’ll only have to endure this joke once: for the next two minutes and twenty-five seconds, I plan to get very Twiggy with it. #95: “Attack of the 50-Ft. Teletubbies,” D.J. Shoe (1996) Nepotism, schmepotism--I think Scott and I are pretty good at not falling prey to self-serving ges- tures of mutual fan clubdom, so I include this feeling fairly positive that it’s one of my 100 favourite songs ever right now, and that it has been for the past few years. I also know that the Rolling Stones would’ve killed to make this record. More than that, I’ll leave you to figure out for yourself. #94: “Blowin’ Free,” Wishbone Ash (1972) Decisive knockout over BTO’s “Hey You” in the highly specialized HRS Power-Pop department. (HRS = Hard Rockin’ Shit, a genre Scott and I invented for the seventies book. It never really caught on with the public, who instead opted for the more erudite-sounding “rockism.”) Wishbone Ash wrote about golden cornfields and dream-like girls with flowing hair, so they stayed more true to the power-pop ethos. How that fits in with Argus’s cover shot of a helmeted warrior keeping watch over the British countryside, I’m not quite sure. #93: “Strings of Life,” Rhythim Is Rhythim (1987) Now and again, I’ll take a look at the user comments on YouTube. I like this one from one of the other versions of “Strings of Life” that’s been posted (I went with the original, but there must be a dozen): “Justin Bieber can’t play piano like this.” Besides being such an intriguing non sequitur--well, no, I bet he can’t; neither can Harmon Killebrew--it occurs to me that probably Rhythim Is Rhythim couldn’t even play piano like this. I mean, is somebody actually playing a piano here? I’m seeing this record come together in my mind’s eye, and there’s nobody sitting at a piano. Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know. In any event, it was supposedly one of the ground-zero blueprints for what I still consider one of my favourite sounds ever, as serene in its way as Arvo Pärt. #92: “Dues,” Ronee Blakley (1975) I recently did a two-part Nixon show on CKLN, hooked in with the anniversary of his resignation-- iconic Nixon songs, songs that were on the Top 100 the week he resigned, sound clips, a variety of cultural flotsam and jetsam circa 1974 (e.g., a news report on Patty Hearst, movie trailers for The Godfather II and The Parallax View), etc. One thing I thought about a lot was the perfect song on which to finish, and I must say I was quite proud of myself for settling on this. It takes care of the easy part--conveying some sense of where the country was at in 1974--but there are any number of songs that would have worked just as well on that level. “Dues” does something else: it’s a pos- sible map as to where Nixon’s head might have been at as he climbed onto that plane and headed back to San Clemente. (Another song that’s got it covered both ways: “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”) Okay-- I’ll now do what anybody writing about anything should do as often as possible, which is to hand it over to Pauline Kael: “When (Blakley) stands on the stage of the Opry Belle and sings ‘Dues,’ with the words ‘It hurts so bad, it gets me down,’ her fragility is so touching and her swaying movements are so seductively musical that, perhaps for the first time on the screen, one gets the sense of an artist’s being consumed by her gift...At one point, she sings with the mike in one hand, the other hand tracing the movements of the music in the air, and it’s an absolutely ecstatic moment.” #91: “When the Last Time,” Clipse (2002) I think most of my picks fall under the broad umbrella of moral or spiritual uplift--which, for me, covers everything from Rhythim Is Rhythim to X-Ray Spex to 50 Cent. Now and again, something slips through. “When the Last Time” is the only thing I’ll be listing where I considered not providing a link, but I don’t think censoring your own tastes is a good idea. Sometimes I have to--on the radio, at school--but not here. There’s a thread up right now on the I Love Everything message board called “Depressing Phrases,” and somebody put forth “It is what it is.” Someone else countered: “I used to hate this one but now I find its Zen-like sentiment endearing.” That’s where I am--I don’t know about endearing, but it’s a useful phrase when explanations come up short. So, “When the Last Time.” It is what it is, and I promise there’s lots of moral and spiritual uplift down the road. #90: “Hey Gyp,” Keith Shields (1967) Genre permutations have exploded exponentially the past decade. Everyone has his favourite: mine’s Post-Rockist Grimecore, but tomorrow that may change. Keeping track of genres used to be much easier--time was that five was enough to cover everybody, but now even the ‘60s and ‘70s have under- gone a posthumous genre makeover. I can think of at least three that have been excavated and offici- ally named fairly recently: Psych Folk (which may actually have been referred to as such during its lifetime, although I’d never heard the term myself until five or ten years ago); Sunshine Pop, which corrals a bunch of stuff I’ve always loved, from the Association to the Mary Tyler Moore Theme; and Freakbeat, home to Keith Shields, the Creation, and others. British garage, basically, but I guess that conjures up frat houses and the Kingsmen and matching Nehru jackets, so Freakbeat had to be pressed into duty. #89: “Safety Net,” Shop Assistants (1985) One of Godard’s earliest films, before even Breathless, was named All Boys Are Called Patrick; when I look at the video for “Safety Net,” I want to retitle it “All Girls Are Called Nancy Lanthier.” That will make sense to some of the people reading this. How did I miss this band during Nerve days?! It’s not like they were obscure--I was vaguely familiar with the name, knew of their existence, just hadn’t heard them, and never made any effort to hear them, either. “The Shop Assistants”--sounded exceedingly precious, like maybe they played toy ukule- les or something. When I finally caught up with them two or three years ago, I was quite astounded. #88: “When,” Grachan Moncur III (1969) I’m letting four jazz and classical songs onto the list this time; I think Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Moments” was on the Radio On list, otherwise I always stuck to things that could (very) broadly be considered pop music. Every time I do one of these, though, I always say it’ll be the last time (it never is), and I want to acknowledge how much three of the four have meant to me over the years. This is the one that’s pretty new--think I’ve had it for maybe three years. Excuse me, sir, I’m lost, I’m looking for a place where I can get lost. #87: “Maria Bartiromo,” Joey Ramone (2002) My favourite fan letter ever, and an unexpected snapshot of a world so inundated with fast money that even ex-Ramones keep vigilant watch on their stock portfolios. (Some might take Joey singing "What's happening with Intel?/What’s happening with Amazon?" as a joke; like Marcus once wrote of Randy Newman's "It's Money That Matters," I think the joke is that it's not a joke.) I don't know how many people ever got to hear this knocking-on-heaven's-door masterpiece, but for me it sits alongside "Oh Oh I Love Her So," "Now I Wanna Be a Good Boy," or anything else the Ramones ever did. Yes, I also have a crush on Maria Bartiromo--you didn’t even need for me to say that, right? #86: “Janis,” Country Joe & the Fish (1967) Changed my mind--this is my favourite fan letter ever. “It’s not very often that something special happens/And you happened to be that something special for me”; if someone had sang that in 2009, or even in 1972, I don’t think such a sentiment would have been especially noteworthy. But “Janis” appeared in November of 1967, and, according to Wikipedia’s timeline, would have been written in either 1966 or early 1967--i.e., would have been written when comparatively few people had even heard of Janis Joplin. I’ve got to make passing reference to Godard for the second time in three entries: I can’t think of a better, or prettier, or more prescient example of nostalgia for the present than what Joe McDonald summons forth here. “The sound of her voice/We once were there”-- wow. And that harmonica...Justin Bieber can’t play harmonica like that. #85: “Oh, Grateful,” James Dean Driving Experience (1987) I mentioned Take the Pills! and Wilfully Obscure earlier on, but my absolute favourite site the past few years has been I Wish I Was a Flexidisc, which is exactly as advertised: flexidiscs from the mid-late ‘80s and beyond, by bands sometimes so obscure that even the internets don’t yield anything in the way of release dates or sleeve images. The guy who operates it was posting regularly for a couple of years (I grabbed everything and compiled ten CD-700s’ worth), but he’s been MIA since March. For the time being, everything’s still there for anyone who wants to inves- tigate. “Oh, Grateful” is a B-side. I have no idea what it’s about, or why a band named the James Dean Driving Experience would put a photo of Audrey Hepburn on their picture sleeve. It jangles, and it jangles some more. It jangles where very few have ever jangled before. #84: “Number 33,” Jan & Lorraine (1969) Another pick directly attributable to the radio show. Scott joined me on air the Sunday before the 2008 election, and we began with “Number 33,” which at that point I’d only just recently discov- ered. (The rest of Jan & Lorraine’s album made no impression on me.) For reasons that are as elusive as the song itself, it seemed to capture perfectly the strangeness that marked those last few weeks leading up to Obama’s election--that palling-around-with-terrorists, Joe-the-Plumber moment, when stuff that had been lurking just below the surface began to spill all over the place. The insanity has never really stopped, if you ask me, it just continues to take on new and differ- ent forms. Strangeness: they often went off the rails, but if there’s one thing hippies had a gift for, it was strange. #83: “The Great Beyond,” R.E.M. (1999) Like any recovering R.E.M. lover--never former, forever recovering--I regularly relapse, always feel shame when I do, try my best to pick up the pieces and press ahead regardless. I’ve still got to cut my floating list by five to ten songs, and every time one of them gets crossed off, I will blame R.E.M. As you can see from the video, “The Great Beyond” comes from Jim Carrey’s Andy Kauf- man film; the movie got a lot of attention and was quickly forgotten, the song got none and sounds as beautiful to me today as when I put it in my Top 10 that year. Lots else going in the video besides the requisite clips, including a nice Help! allusion. #82: “There Goes Another Love Song,” Outlaws (1975) Trust me when I say that I’m far, far ahead of the curve on this one. I’ve been waiting 35 years now for it to be as famous as “Free Bird” or “Jessica,” and while there’s no movement on the front yet, lines are being redrawn and the ground is starting to shift underneath--it will happen. (It’s all Christgau’s fault--he scared everybody off with a C- for the album.) Southern rock in the ‘70s is like garage in the ‘60s or doo-wop in the ‘50s: true believers are devotional, and their devo- tion is based on the certainty that it never got any better than this. “There Goes Another Love Song” is, for me, the song that makes me think “You know, you might be right--I get it.” #81: “Give Him My Love,” McKinleys (1965) Somewhere along the way, I hope to put up a separate post acknowledging--bemoaning--some of the things that have fallen away from previous Top 100s. Not just songs and artists, either; entire genres and decades have disappeared. It’s a brutal, cutthroat business, this list-making. Girl group hangs on. I’ve collected a fair amount of girl group since the CKLN list in 2006, and while most of it is highly imitative and immediately forgettable, every so often I’m still stum- bling across obscure little cathedrals of perfection like “Give Him My Love.” I’ve also got a second McKinleys song on my hard drive, “That Lonely Feeling,” which is two more than I’ve got by lots of people I won’t name so as not to needlessly antagonize anybody. #80: “Never Understand,” Jesus & Mary Chain (1985) Righting that wrong--that’s something I’ve been doing with my list too, making amends for past over- sights. Pretty sure I didn’t have JAMC on any of the three previous Top 100s, which just isn’t right; the effect that they had on me when Psychocandy came out is equalled only by Hüsker Dü a couple of years earlier, Neil Young in high school, and the Vengaboys for a few hours during the summer sol- stice of 1999. I could go with “My Little Underground” just as easily, but this is the one that’s got the real video. It feels good to know that there’s somebody in Scotland right now who, if not stunned, is at least happy. (Anita, take three steps back from your computer and walk far, far away, while you still have a chance.) #79: “Your Therapy,” She Mob (2001) How can you not a love a band whose website proclaims their Turn to Chocolate LP “#771 in the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop Poll”? Even better, the one vote that got them there belonged to Rich- ard Riegel; Marcus, Christgau, and Chuck Eddy have also written nice things about them. If their lyrics are to be trusted, someone in She Mob is the first of two teachers who’ll be on my list. (Just to head off any crushing disappointment: no Kiss, Angry Samoans, or Gregory Abbott.) As with any teacher, they try to promote self-esteem: “Fucking you was really nice/I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.” #78: “Suavecito,” Malo (1972) Have I ever mentioned how awesome a year I think 1972 was? Only three million times--1972’s law- yers have even tried to collect residuals from me. My 1972 pantheon was more or less fixed in place 38 years ago, but this one’s been added to the list within the past couple of years. I didn’t even like it at the time; think I used to group it together with Dr. Music’s “Sun Goes By” and “Day by Day” from Godspell in what the 11-year-old me might have called the Lame-O category. Now I think it’s every bit as sublime as Sly’s “Hot Fun in the Summertime” or War’s “Summer.” I’m linking to a great TV spot, and yes, I realize the guy in the tank top is a crime against nature. I’ll provide a link in the comments box to a truncated version of what runs six-and-a-half minutes on the LP. #77: “Improvisations on the Theme Music from Pather Panchali,” Ravi Shankar (1962) What I’m able to dig up on YouTube has had a huge influence on this list. This came to me as some- thing of an afterthought the other day--“Wonder what I can find for Ravi Shankar?”--and the clip below clinched it. It’s not, strictly speaking, what I’m listing, which is the seven-minute main theme for Satyajit Ray’s film; instead, someone has taken all the musical interludes from Pather Panchali and attached them back-to-back, so you get 10 minutes of nothing but Shankar overtop sequences and images from the movie, with the main theme weaving in and out. It’s all good--and what happens at the 1:47 mark is one of the two or three greatest moments in film history. (The film came out in the mid-‘50s, but I’ll go with the date of the Shankar LP Improvisations.) #76: “Airborne,” Wussy (2005) I’ve been listening to their (relatively) new album the past couple of days, and I think they might be my favourite band in the world right now. This is the first of what will be two appearances by Chuck Cleaver on my list--of the handful of people who are going to make it twice, he provides the most in the way of “Um...who?” puzzlement value. He looks like an ancient hillbilly, has a quavering voice to match, and he and his wife Lisa rank with Ira & Georgia, Grace & Paul, Dick & Dee Dee, and all my other favourite rock and roll couples. (Neil & Chris, too, if they were to ever tie the knot.) Two lines from “Airborne” kill me: “Well, it was just another Thursday/Like any other Thurs- day” (what does a generic Thursday feel like? I’m not sure...), and “You went off like Frankenstein.” I’ve lost it a few times in my life, but I don’t know that I’ve ever gone off like Frankenstein. That sounds real bad.