Nobody Talks, Nobody Listens

#75: “Georgy Girl,” Seekers (1966) Rootsy guy that I am, let me begin with a bold statement: here are the roots of Sunshine Pop, right here, right now. (Guarantee that some scholarly type will jump on to say that it really begins with the Association and “Windy” a few months later, and I wouldn’t argue the point. I think Alan Lomax may have done some field recordings with the Cowsills in the ‘30s, but I’m leaving them out of the conversation altogether.) I’ve loved “Georgy Girl” forever--can’t remem- ber a time when I didn’t love it. It’s the ultimate in what I think of as backseat-of-my-parents- car music (not to be confused with older-brother music, an important genre even if you don’t have an older brother), like “Downtown” and “Dizzy” and lots else from the late ‘60s. As Jerry Sein- feld once said about Sue Ellen Mischke, I’m crazy about it--I love its whole free-swinging, free- wheeling attitude. #74: “Levi Stubbs’ Tears,” Billy Bragg (1986) The ‘90s are Scott’s black hole; for me, it’s the ‘80s. There was Haysi Fantayzee, of course. Everybody knows Haysi Fantayzee--except Mrs. Haysi Fantayzee. (Hi, Rob!) Squirrel Bait had a couple of great songs, Billy Ocean had it going on for a while, and that was about it. There’ll be a lit- tle less from the ‘80s on my list than from any other decade; if I expanded to 200 songs, there’d be a lot less. But “Levi Stubbs’ Tears” still gets to me. It has a contender for the most perfect line ever written: “When the world falls apart, some things stay in place.” You could, as the say- ing goes--I think there’s a saying--retire on that line. Also, Billy Bragg inspired my greatest joke ever, written back in 1991 for the first-ever edition of the now unfortunately defunct Eye Weekly year-end poll. You’ll have to hunt it down yourself--the punchline had to do with Elf Insurance. #73: “Merry Xmas Everybody,” Slade (1973) A sentiment I send out to all. Many thanks to Scott and to everyone else in the group--this is the most fun I’ve had writing in ages. (Certainly more fun than the message board, where they’re all really mean to me.) Scott and I have been trying to guess each other’s Christmas song. I think this may be one of the two he’s considering; for me, it’s in a dead heat with Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy” (almost listed both as a Christmas gift to myself), and just a little ahead of Nat King Cole’s “The Christ- mas Song,” Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and the Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping.” Once again, the live clip tipped the scales--when Noddy marches the band over to where the audience is, well, it’s enough to make you tear up, oversized clown shoes and puzzling apparel notwithstanding. Have a great Christmas. #72: “Jamboree,” Henry Flynt (1965) It’s Dec. 25--happy birthday, Rickey Henderson! Bob Dylan in a 1971 interview, reflecting back on 1964: "We were driving through Colorado, we had the radio on, and eight of the Top 10 songs were Beatles songs...'I Wanna Hold Your Hand,' all those early ones. They were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous, just outrageous, and their harmonies made it all valid...I knew they were pointing the direction of where music had to go." I’ve always loved that quote. I made basically the same point writing about Dr. Strangelove once: that whatever seemed insurrectionary and out there at the time--Coltrane, Warhol, Godard--the Beatles took their place at the front of the line with anybody. Maybe that seems obvious, I don’t know. I think that’s sometimes forgotten about the Beatles. And it was, without doubt, an out-there time. Very, very out there. #71: “99 Problems,” Danger Mouse (2004) Speaking of the Beatles, this may be their only appearance on my list. I’m not sure yet. They were on the other three, very high each time (“Yes It Is” twice, “Tell Me What You See” last go-round), but I go through periods where I’m all Beatled out, and I just finished making Beatles mix-CDs for three co-workers. We’ll see--those guys will sneak up on you. Jay-Z’s original of “99 Problems” and Danger Mouse’s “Helter Skelter” mash-up are pretty close for me--I made them my co-#1s that year--but I do have a slight preference for Danger Mouse. I’m pretty sure that’s mostly determined by what I hear, but I won’t lie: I love the whole concept of The Grey Album, and also its backstory. Even now, six years later, one of the two YouTube clips is working, the other’s been disabled. I’m somewhat surprised that people still do battle with unstoppable forces and immovable objects, but they do. #70: “On a Plain,” Nirvana (1991) Pretty much the last band I ever expected to be listing. When I got into the big argument with Chuck Eddy many years ago, Nirvana was central, and I was being very disingenuous in a way--I’ve never been a big Nirvana fan, and probably, on the whole, think they’re as overrated as Chuck does. (Not speci- fically what we were arguing about, but...nevermind.) But I’ve really come to love “On a Plain” the last two or three years. I’ve played it on the radio a few times, listen to it in the car regularly, and even snuck it onto the school P.A. one morning as the kids filed in. It’s a strange song, yet completely accessible at the same time. It’s here, it’s gone--it doesn’t seem weighed down with the significance of Nirvana’s more famous songs. The clip is a good live one, more or less identical to the original. #69: “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969) Finding out one day that Rob Sheffield hated this was very wounding. How could anyone not like “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”? It’s like hating Georgette from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, or Ozzie Smith-- some songs and some people are too lovable to hate, and we must try our best to honour that...Wait a minute--I forgot how essentially creepy David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash are. Disre- gard. I do love this song, though; if this were 1975, it probably grabs top spot, and I’ve never stopped loving it--through punk, through my great Madonna/Pet Shop Boys reawakening of 1986, through Radio On, through the Vengaboys, it’s always been there, and I know Cypress Hill agrees. Only thing I’d change is the line “Be my lady”--a little too Gino Vannelli. Another great live clip: famous patter at the end, “Tell ‘em who we are” up front. Wow. #68: “Check It Out,” Nicki Minaj & (2010) I just listed this as my favourite song of 2010 on a year-end ballot a few days ago, and while moving it onto an all-time list may be premature--I’ve had more than a couple of #1s from previous year-ends that I eventually overplayed to near-death--I otherwise can’t think of a good reason not to. If anything, it should be much higher--actually, if anything, it should have been #69. (Scott had the wherewithal to list a sex song at #69. I went with...Crosby, Stills, & Nash!) If all goes as planned, my grade 6 class will be making their own video to “Check It Out” (we’ll have to clean up the language a tad--there is a clean version out there). Right now, we just need a concept. The concept here is Nicki Minaj. What a concept. #67: “Disorder,” Joy Division (1979) More amends...When I inventoried and wrote about my record collection a few years ago, I questioned why anyone would listen to Joy Division “past a certain point in his or her life.” For their dirg- ier songs, like some of their side closers, I’ll more or less stand by that statement. But even then, I included “Disorder” on the running list of songs I’d want to keep from my collection, and, in the wake of the two Joy Division movies (only seen the documentary so far) and 24 Hour Party People, it sounds better--more otherworldy--than ever. If only it had turned up this year in Olivier Assayas’s Carlos, in which the Baader-Meinhof Group gets lost inside a Tarantino movie. (Lots of YouTube choices, including a couple of slide shows; this one’s completely nuts, so it’s the best.) #66: “The Lark Ascending,” Vaughan Williams (1914) Speaking of segues and swoon, I had this earmarked for the Top 30, but I want to close the book on the great 24 Hour Party People guessing game as quickly as possible. This is the song: if a little write-up I once did on the film is to be trusted, there’s about 10 seconds’ worth as Steve Coogan frolics in a field. Perfect backdrop for contemplating the entirety of your life so far as you listen--it’s long enough--or, if you’d prefer, you can think about nothing at all, just bliss out. Wikipedia says it’s been voted #1 in the Classic FM Annual Hall of Fame Poll the past four years in a row. That makes me very happy--not so much that it finished first, more the idea that classical people are evidently just as superficial as I am when it comes to lists and polls. Happy New Year. #65: “Ramble Tamble,” Creedence Clearwater Revival (1970) You need something to wake you up, I can tell. “Ramble Tamble”’s one of the greatest album-openers ever (1970 was a spectacular year for album-openers), with two minutes of what I believe is called, in Creedence-speak, “choogling”--yes, choogling!--giving way to a wash of majestic and atypically (for CCR) meditative drone. Unlike “Bad Moon Rising” or “Fortunate Son” or “Up Around the Bend,” it’s the rare masterpiece of theirs that hasn’t been played to death on classic-rock radio. I used to own an eight-track of Cosmo’s Factory--I bet “Ramble Tamble” had program one all to itself. A user comment from YouTube: “38 years ago when I was on a ship in Viet Nam I used to BLAST this song on the mess decks while I was scrubbing pots in the galley.” I can’t beat that. #64: “Divorce Song,” Liz Phair (1993) I’ve been postponing this, but at a certain point it becomes unavoidable: listing something that I know was on one of the other countdowns (“Divorce Song” was high on the CKLN list). Being able to find some interesting visuals on YouTube helps, and this homemade video gets at what I love about “Divorce Song” quite nicely--it’s all in the eyes. I linked to it a few weeks ago on an ILE thread devoted to Five Easy Pieces, a connection I used for a Radio On cover 15 years ago, and one that still makes sense to me...Liz Phair’s career must be one of the most peculiar train wrecks this side of Cyndi Lauper or Sinead O’Connor. (Christgau always stuck by her.) She and her Andrew Dice Clay tendencies, on full display here, almost got me into trouble on the radio recently. Note to self: avoid “Chopsticks,” not just “Supernova.” #63: “Ain’t No Big Thing,” Jimmy James & the Vagabonds (1966) Don’t sweat the small stuff, whatever, it is what it is...Besides being a great record, this may have been well ahead of its time when it came to surveying the situation and artfully shrugging its shoulders. I need more than 1,000 characters to adequately address the shameful--embarrassing, to be honest--lack of soul & R&B on my list (black music in general), so I’ll save that for a note later on. I’d never heard “Ain’t No Big Thing” till three or four years ago, when I found it on Vol. 5 of a neat compilation series called Doin’ the Mod. Soon after, I discovered a version by the Tempests; I’ve just now learned that it’s been covered by at least 22 different artists. So I have no idea whether this is the best version or not. Ain’t no big thing--even if it’s the 17th-best version, it’s pretty awesome. #62: “Goin’ Down the Road,” Bruce Cockburn (1970) This shouldn’t be quite so high, but I just discovered it three days ago--not the song, which I’ve loved for 35+ years, but the means of removing it from a movie for which no soundtrack exists and transforming it into usable software. Thank you, YouTube and Real Player. The film is Don Shebib’s Goin’ Down the Road, and Cockburn’s song plays overtop the opening two minutes, as the two lead characters vacate Nova Scotia and head for Toronto. I’ll mention something that I once wrote about in Jeff Pike’s fanzine: in ’79 or ’80, I bought a beer for Paul Bradley--he plays Joey, who you see stepping out of his house around the 1:25 mark--at the depressingly seedy Yonge Station, and he was as drunk and as forlorn as his character. He died in 2003. I wish I’d told him that one day there’d be the internet, and I’d be paying tribute to him on a popular social network. #61: “It’s Only Life,” Feelies (1988) I had “Raised Eyebrows” on the CKLN list, but “It’s Only Life” is the one I’ve gravitated towards the past couple of years. (“(Slipping Into) Something” was another possibility.) The Feelies engender the same kind of goodwill that CCR does--I don’t think I’ve ever really read anything negative about them. You either love the new-wavey first LP, or the R.E.M.-influenced comeback in the mid-‘80s, or maybe you even remember their funny turn in Something Wild. (Or maybe you’ve never heard of them at all. That’s possible too.) They’ve got a song or two in Carlos, and supposedly they were in consul- tation with Olivier Assayas about something or other. “Nothing matters, and what if it did?”--they must be quoting a famous line from somebody there. I tried a search, and all I got back was the name of an early John Cougar LP. Anything’s possible, but I’ve never before detected a major John Cougar influence in the Feelies’ work. I’ve never even detected a minor one. #60: “Cold Rain and Snow,” Grateful Dead (1967) Good spot for this: they were the Feelies 20 years before the Feelies (even more than the Velvet Underground were, I’d say), and the YouTube clip matches up perfectly with that Man in a Blizzard film that’s been getting so much attention the past couple of weeks. If I were only able to master one dance--which would be one more than I’ve presently mastered--it wouldn’t be the Twist, the Madison, or the Stroll, as cool as they all are. Anna Karina’s dance in Band of Outsiders, Elina Löwensohn’s in Simple Men, and Travolta and Thurman’s in Pulp Fiction would all be high on the list, but not quite. That mambo that Jackie Gleason once did on The Honeymooners, even higher. But if I only get to pick one, I’d go with the Hippie Sun Grope. It’s not really even a dance. I’m not sure what it is. It does give expression to the kind of ecstatic abandon that danc- ing’s supposed to be all about, though. And there’s nothing I’d rather Sun Grope to than “Cold Rain and Snow.” #59: “Marquee Moon,” Television (1977) The Feelies, the Grateful Dead--I may as well complete the “Guitars? We have guitars” trifecta. Tele- vision joins Nirvana as the least likely inclusion on my list. I bought a remaindered copy of Mar- quee Moon at Cheapies in the fall of ’79, and my insight into either the album or the band never moved much beyond “I don’t get it” for the longest time. A few years ago, I started to get it. The biggest obstacle, of course, was the voice; if “Marquee Moon” had been an instrumental, I would have made my peace with it long ago. But I can now say that Tom Verlaine’s mewling works here; mewling has its place. That I love mewling along with him, and count mewling as possibly the only vocal trick in my own arsenal, that helps a lot. My favourite part, though, would still be the four-and-a-half minutes that follow “I ain’t waitin’, uh-uh.” I got that part long ago. #58: “My Spy,” Imperial Teen (2002) One of four bands--well, five now that Wussy’s been added to the list--where I make the effort to hear whatever they do, rather than waiting for them to find me. (That sounds really cold, I know. The way I come to music was drastically altered during Radio On’s lifetime, and was drastically altered once again when the focus became my computer.) Wussy turned up earlier, there’s a compara- tively new band named Knight School who got knocked off the list late, and two are still to come. With Imperial Teen, there were so many songs in the running. “You’re One,” their oblique Cobain love letter, was #30 on the CKLN list, but I like “Pig Latin” from the same LP just as much. “Sugar” and “What You Do” both made one of my year-end Top 10s, and What Is Not to Love, maybe their best album from start to finish, has two or three great ones. But I’ll go with “My Spy.” I can’t cede every spectacular new-wave synthesizer to Scott--I have to grab me some of that action too, even if a song 20 years after the fact. This also gives me an excuse to link to the best new- wave joke ever; I’m not ready to start time-coding yet, so you’ll have to search for it yourself. All I need now is for Chuck Eddy to drop by and explain what “The Moulin Rouge in the middle of the living room/Breathe out, breathe in, and we like the cars that go boom” means. #57: “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice,” Lovin’ Spoonful (1965) I have to start with one of my favourite lines from Marcus’s Stranded discography: “That John Sebastian never learned to frown rather compromised his contemplation of the abyss, but in the glory days following the Beatles’ arrival, who needed the abyss?” Sebastian’s great in the clip I’ve linked to, but it’s Zally Yanovsky who I really love; he strikes me as one of the great for- gotten figures of the ‘60s, always looking like he’s having more fun than anyone in the room, bopping around with a big stupid grin on his face and a haircut that’s some kind of an unholy cross between the Beatles and Eddie Munster. I also have a personal connection that I’ve written about before: in the early ‘60s, he’d sometimes frequent the milk store my dad owned at College and Dovercourt. “Do You Believe in Magic?” is the Spoonful’s most famous song, and I like it almost as much; or maybe it’s “Daydream” or “Summer in the City,” both of which I tired of long ago. “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice” gets extra points for good manners above and beyond the call of duty; it’s the politest great song I know. #56: “Field of Stars,” Oliver Schroer (2006) I tentatively pencilled in something stridently political for this spot a couple of nights ago, but in light of what’s going on in Arizona, I’ll hold off on that for the time being. A friend introduced me to “Field of Stars” on a mix-CD of Canadian stuff. I’d never heard of Oliver Schroer before that; by the time I did, he’d been dead for a couple of years. Not really sure where you’d file something like “Field of Stars” in a record store--Celtic or folk, I guess, but classical or new age or ambient would seem just as appropriate. Much like the Arvo Pärt piece I listed way back at the beginning of this, it’s out there waiting for the right film director to lay it overtop eight minutes of stunningly beautiful images where nothing much happens at all: The Piano, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Paris, Texas, something in that tradition. But no matter how beautiful the images, I need the music for such films to work. If it’s there, I’m a complete push- over. Take it away and I’m trapped inside Tarkovsky’s Stalker, counting the days and the weeks till it’s over. #55: “Fear Is a Man’s Best Friend,” John Cale (1974) I’ve been going back to this for years whenever I’m in a certain frame of mind. It’s a mood that I’m not sure I could describe, as elusive and as fragmentary as the song itself. The fear that you’re asked to embrace is amorphous too, and also inescapable: an unnamed man, your eye on the door, waiting, waiting, waiting. You know it makes sense, don’t even think about it. Have a good time even--there’s a certain music-hall jauntiness in the piano playing, and it’s a fun song to sing along with. An obvious zero-sum, yin-yang observation: the music that John Cale made in the early ‘70s--Paris 1919 has songs I like almost as much as “Fear Is a Man’s Best Friend”--holds up much better than what Lou Reed was doing at the time. The only thing that survives from either one of them on the radio is “Walk on the Wild Side,” which for reasons I can’t quite figure out still gets played regularly on Q-107 (even heard it on the way to work this morning). Not a knock on the song, which I actually find kind of moving these days, now that I know who all the characters are. Just that its enduring place in Q-107’s version of the world makes no sense. #54: “Positively Jeff Oliphant,” Dump (1998) I said earlier that Chuck Cleaver was going to be the least famous twice-listed person on my list; call it a tie between him and Dump’s James McNew. (Or, if you'd prefer, just Dump--McNew is the entire band, although side players join him on each album.) If you don’t know, he’s put out four or five albums, including a collection of Prince covers; I’ve saved five songs on my hard drive, including “International Airport” (an epic), “Raspberry Beret” (almost as good as the original--not quite), and “Return to Dump” (his own “Creeque Alley” or “Truckin’,” except it’s an instrumental). More background: Jeff Oliphant was the drummer for Big Dipper, which I only know because I looked it up five minutes ago. Don’t know much about them--I may have a song on a compilation somewhere. I don’t think "Positively Jeff Oliphant" is actually about Jeff Oliphant, I’m guessing McNew just named it that as tribute to a friend, and as tribute to Dylan. That’s all I got--it’s just a beau- tiful song, and if all the country music I know nothing about sounded like this, I’d know something about country music. #53: “For Another Man,” Motions (1965) Scott’s gone off on one of his periodic Mason Williams benders, so I’ve been instructed to leapfrog his #54 and post away...That three different people have videos up for the relatively obscure “For Another Man” on YouTube--as far as I can tell, it didn’t chart in either Britain or North Amer- ica; I caught up with it maybe five years ago--tells you something about how great it is. Too early for Freakbeat, so I guess it’s Mod, but it doesn’t really remind me of the Who, or the Yardbirds, or the Kinks, or anybody else--maybe the breathy, echoey spaces of “She’s Not There” and “Time of the Season” to a degree. Have I posted a shorter song thus far? This one runs 1:49, which is practically Angry Samoans territory. In the early stages of drawing up our lists, I had mentioned to Scott that I expected to have far less stuff from the ‘60s than on my previous Top 100s. Turns out there’ll be a little less--at least a quarter of my picks will come from that decade that people of a certain mindset are always saying (with rather theatrical impatience) needs to be killed off once and for all. I’m not sure why you’d want to, when a little bit of exploration turns up one “For Another Man” after another. There’s no end to them. #52: “George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People,” Legendary K.O. (2005) Before Arizona, it had been an increasingly rare good few weeks for President Obama--a measure of distance from the midterms, important legislation passed at a moment when no one expected anything to get through, signs of life for the economy (although no movement on the one number that matters most). Good job, Mr. President; to paraphrase Joe Pesci, motherfuck those vampires every chance you get. The events in Arizona have been awful, but he once again seems so much more adult than all that surrounds him. (As someone who’s been piling on Grizzly McAdams every chance I get--I do believe she deserves it--I don’t exempt myself from the din.) You could, I suppose, say that the moral authority of Legendary K.O.’s post-Katrina diatribe has been dimmed by Obama’s handling of last year’s oil spill. I wouldn’t--apples and oranges to me, but I’m hardly objective. Bush is so fiercely eviscerated here, that when he spoke recently of Kanye West’s attack being the biggest disappointment of his presidency, I wondered if he wasn’t in fact thinking of this record. The reality is that he almost certainly never heard it. Favourite verse in 2005, favourite verse today: “Five damn days, five long days/And at the end of the fifth, he walkin’ in like ‘Hey’.” (Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose: the fact that this was all over the internet within days of Katrina would seem to sum up today’s speed-of-sound media cycle perfectly. But it’s worth noting that back in 1970, “Ohio” was recorded 11 days after Kent State and was on the radio within a matter of weeks.) #51: “Genesis,” Jorma Kaukonen (1974) Or maybe it’s “Jorma Kaukonen” by Genesis, how should I know?...The first of three Airplane re- lated songs on my list, and also the first of three found in Noel Baumbach films. In this instance I knew the song before seeing the film, but just barely--I found it on my own maybe a year before it turned up in Margot at the Wedding. Nothing especially noteworthy about how it’s used; the princi- pals are sitting around Jennifer Jason Leigh’s living room talking, and “Genesis” plays on a turn- table or CD player in the background. I don’t know how Kaukonen’s Quah LP escaped my attention for so long (meaning I didn’t even know of its existence)--there’s an entry for it in the first Rolling Stone Record Guide, right after important work by Kansas and Gabe Kaplan (nothing in Christgau’s ‘70s book, though). I’ve been trying to find an exact release date, as I’m curious about its prox- imity to Nixon’s resignation. The last tracks were laid down in May of ’74, so it likely appeared very close on the heels of August 9. One more gateway into a moment in time like no other.

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