86. Blink 182 - Stay Together for the Kids

For much of their career, Blink 182 was "the fun band." They were the guys running around naked in their videos, writing silly lyrics to extremely catchy punk songs. It seems like they were picking up the mantle that the Red Hot Chili Peppers set down when the Chilis decided to get serious. With songs like, "Dammit", "What's My Age Again?" and "All the Small Things" they took the punk sensibilities that they grew up loving and added a pop hook to them.

But in their Enema of the State album, they decided to go serious themselves with the suicide themed "Adam's Song," which was a departure, being a grown up song with very serious themes and lyrics. But even in there brief moment of gravity, they lampooned boy bands in their "All the Small Things" video, where they are running on the beach... naked.

The song on my list, "Stay Together for the Kids" appears on their next album, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. This time, parental strife and divorce are the heavy theme of the bummer song on the album. Many have mocked the guys for the "After-School Special" treatment of the topic, but I disagree. Tom Delonge, the guitarist and one of the lead singers wrote the song from his own personal experience. Interestingly, though, bassist and other lead singer Mark Hoppus takes the vocals on the verses, with Tom taking the chorus. It's a great lead singer situation, one we haven't really seen since Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr. And for this particular song, having Mark's baritone for the melancholy verses and then Tom tearing in with his angry tenor for the choruses really pays tribute to not only their songwriting skills, but having two great vocal performances in the same song.

Since one in every two marriages end in divorce, we all know (or were) people like Tom's angry teenager. The lyrics really sum up the frustration that teens from a breaking home feel every single day.

I'm ripe with things to say
The words rot and fall away.
If a stupid poem could fix this home
I'd read it every day.

I love the line about a stupid poem. It's like our teenager knows it's all going to fall apart, but wants so bad to believe in something, that he'll try anything. I know there are times in my life where I've felt like that. I'll try ANYTHING. Just make this better! It's not right!

Musically, the song is put together perfectly. It starts with a lone guitar, which seems to be just counting the time, waiting. Then Mark comes in with the muted lyrics, while Travis Barker, Blink's drummer plays an almost James Brownish muted drum loop so as not to distract from the lyrics and melody. I've always pictured Travis as a guy who loves to play drums. He needs to play drums. It's in his DNA. Just watch him (hopefully in a live performance) and you'll see what I mean. He's one of those drummers that you think that he might actually get paid for how many times he hits something with his drumsticks. So for Travis, to play this restrained must have been very difficult. But when the chorus roars in, everyone just cuts loose. Tom's vocals soar in their anger and Travis makes up for lost time with a stunning show of his drum skills. Mark is the team player in the choruses, playing a solid, basic bass line while his partners go ballistic.

Many people think that the pop-punk music is a desecration of the honesty and rawness of punk rock. As you could probably tell, I disagree. Just because a song has more than three chords and actually has some production values doesn't automatically mean that it's less. Just because it's popular doesn't mean it's bad. Bands like Blink 182, Green Day, Good Charlotte and others are just trying to take punk to another level. It's not necessarily a better level, just a different one, and there's nothing wrong with that.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a household where my parents stayed together and loved each other. But it's nice to know that if things would have ended up different, I would have had music to turn to in my time of angst, where the guys playing the song knew exactly where I came from. So in our shared loneliness, neither of us was alone.

(Two fun facts for this one:

Fun Fact #364 - Of the 123 studio songs that Blink 182 have released, Tom has a slight edge in lead singer duties, with 68 songs, with Mark coming in with 55.

Fun Fact #365 - The video that the band had originally intended to do for this song was a very cool concept where the guys were playing in the basement of a house that was slowly being demolished by a wrecking ball. The house was also filled with teens from broken homes. The first day of shooting wrapped and the band was really pleased with how it had all gone. They were scheduled to come back the next morning to finish up a few things. The date of the first day of shooting was September 10, 2001. Obviously, in the wake of the terrorist attacks that would happen the next morning, they decided not to release the video, and just released a standard performance video for the song. But the original video can be found on Youtube. Just look for Stay Together for the Kids - Original Version. Let me save you the trouble...)

87. Neil Diamond - I Am... I Said

Oh, man. I knew I was going to hear it for "Jessie's Girl." But now, if anyone's going to lose faith in my musical tastes and stop reading this preposterous exercise altogether, this is going to be when it happens. But before you close your browser or even slam your laptop shut, give me a chance to make my case for Neil Diamond.

For those who scoff at the mere mention of Neil Diamond or have a good laugh at the absurdity of those outfits he wore, take a look at his resume. Sales of 115,000,000 records worldwide. Twenty-five Top 20 singles. "Okay, so he was popular," I hear you say. But how about this for his songwriter's cred. Wrote "I'm a Believer" and then gave it away to the Monkees who went on to make it a hit. He was inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame in 1984. Rick Rubin produced his last two albums, the most recent of which, Home Before Dark, debuted at #1 on the US charts, making him the oldest artist in history to debut at #1, at the tender age of 67. Both albums were also well regarded critically. So if Rick Rubin and the music critics see something, then maybe y'all have judged Neil a little too harshly.

As far as great Neil Diamond songs go, there are lots of great ones, and one of my favorites, "Sweet Caroline" would definitely be on my list were it not recorded before I was born. But there are plenty of them that were, and "I Am... I Said" is the best in my opinion. It's one of Neil's most personal songs, where he really lays his heart bare and analyzes some of his deep feelings of loneliness. Lots of singers wax on about being lonely, but every word in this song is an examination of what it's like to feel truly alone.

"I am," I said
To no one there
An no one heard at all
Not even the chair
"I am," I cried
"I am," said I
And I am lost, and I can't even say why
Leavin' me lonely still

I always thought the "not even the chair" line was a bit over the top, but when you're talking about this kind of loneliness, it does work. There's no one there for you at all, not even the chair that you're sitting in, passing the day in your apartment by yourself, like so many other days. Alone. The lines "L.A.'s fine, but it ain't home. New York's home, but it ain't mine no more" really sum up the feelings of countless people who left the comfort of home for new pastures, only to find that they are now without a home of their own. He talks about getting all of his dreams of being a king to come true, but happiness doesn't come with the paycheck.

Musically, the song is deceptively deep. The slow, melancholy way he monotones through the opening verse really do a great job of intoning the loneliness he must feel. As it builds toward the chorus, it's interesting to note that musically, the chorus would be almost soaring if it weren't for the words Neil sings. The production starts off with only acoustic guitar, prefacing the song's theme. The strings then slowly come in and then help build toward the chorus. I like to maybe overthink this and parallel it to when you're all by yourself and feeling lonely. Then you go to a party where there are lots of people and lots of noise, but your loneliness persists.

We've all felt like this, but Neil Diamond was actually able to put it into lyrics and music. So maybe the haters out there should give him another chance. And feel free to let me know which artists I need to give a second chance (Dylan, the Grateful Dead, the aforementioned Pink Floyd). Fair's fair, I guess.

88. Depeche Mode - Personal Jesus

You wouldn't think that growing up in Southern California in the early 80's would be the perfect place to be exposed to British new wave and alternative music. But that's where I first heard some of the artists that were the new wave of British pop and synth music. The world famous KROQ indoctrinated me. They introduced all of us LA kids to The Cure, Howard Jones, Duran Duran (before they were huge) and the band behind #88, Depeche Mode. The song, "Personal Jesus," off of their seventh album, Violator, was a real departure for the band at the time.

Being known almost exclusively as a synth alternative band, "Personal Jesus" features the guitar for the first time as the main instrumental driving force. An almost tribal drum beat accompanies the guitar melody after the "Reach out and touch faith" introduction. The first time I heard this song, back in late '89, I thought it sounded a lot like Dave Gahan singing, but it sure didn't sound like all the other Depeche Mode stuff I'd heard and loved. It was a ballsy move for the band, and it ended up being one of their biggest hits, proving that changing your sound isn't career suicide, but sometimes just the opposite.

Lots of Depeche Mode songs deal with unhealthy relationships, and "Personal Jesus" is no exception. Martin Gore, who writes almost every Depeche Mode song (and wrote this as well), said the inspiration for the song was Priscilla Presley's relationship with Elvis. Elvis was her "personal Jesus," someone into which she placed her hope and ultimately, her entire life. The lyrics echo that:

Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who cares
Your own personal Jesus
Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who's there

Dave Gahan's voice has that deep, rich baritone that works so well with the music and lyrics that Martin writes. It's a testament to the singer when he/she sings the songs and makes the lyrics their own. Lots of people are surprised when they find out that the words Gahan sings aren't his own. But he does a really good job of making each song his, and having his voice being do distinctive, it's hard to imagine anyone else singing the song. (Marilyn Manson, though, does a pretty good cover of this song.)

While the guitar and drums stay center stage for most of the song, about three and a half minutes into the song, it takes a drastic turn back into a more traditional Depeche Mode song. The drums stay, but the synthesizers come in, giving the song a much more melancholy, almost dreamlike feel. A very underrated Andrew Fletcher shines on the keyboards here. This section does a good job of fusing the old and the new so the song isn't a complete abandonment of their earlier style. That way, the song ended up bringing in a new wave of fans as well as giving the die-hards something as well.

(There's a great book out there called 'Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy: And Other Misheard Lyrics. The title is a take on the lyric from "Purple Haze" by Jimi Hendrix. My entry would be from this song. Not nearly as funny as the Hendrix line, in this song I heard it as "Reach out and touch me." I don't feel too stupid, since that line works as well, but I am notorious for not really paying attention to lyrics and often making up my own if I can't understand them.)

Here's a link to the official video Depeche Mode did for Warner Bros.


89. De La Soul - Me Myself and I

Originally, as a music-loving white guy who liked rock & pop music, I was kind of offended by the rap and hip-hop artists who used samples as the basis for their songs. I thought it was stealing at worst (even if the original artists were compensated) or just lazy at best. For many artists from the first wave of rap and hip-hop, that sentiment held true. But then, in an interesting and really cool turn of events, the second wave of artists took things to the next level. They took the established sampling and spun it on its head.

Instead of taking a single sample and just using the untouched instrumental track, rap artists (and most notably, hip-hop artists) used multiple samples in a single song, often taking the sample and tweaking it in any number of ways. So you go from the derivative 3rd Bass and "Pop Goes the Weasel" to De La Soul and "Me Myself and I." But here's the thing: "Pop Goes the Weasel" came out in 1991, while "Me Myself and I," which appeared on De La Soul's Three Feet High and Rising, came out in 1989. Like the Beastie Boys and Paul's Boutique, De La Soul were ahead of their time, making sampling more of an art form than petty theft. And Three Feet High and Rising was De La Soul's debut album.

Normally, the singles from an album are in the first few tracks, since record companies want you to listen to what they think are the "best" songs over and over. "Me Myself and I" isn't track 1. Not 2, 3 or 4. It's track 20! In an album filled with all sorts of cool sampling and skits (another before their time thing, but I don't have time to go into that!), "Me Myself and I" really sticks out. It's a definite dance song that in many ways is similar to other rap records where the artist pumps himself up with his lyrics, but the lyrics here are much more tongue and cheek rather than aggressive and derogatory towards other rappers. Posdnuos (Plug One) and Trugoy (Plug Two) just want to have fun with it.

The lyrics are more interesting than your run of the mill hip-hop song, but still pretty straightforward.

Proud, I'm proud of what I am
Poems I speak are Plug Two Type
Please oh please let Plug Two be
himself, not what you read or write.

These guys just want to be creative and do their music, and have people enjoy it. They're not too interested in blasting other rappers or being true to a particular Coast. What they're interested in is making great songs that they love and hope that we do to. With this song especially, they were very successful. The rest of the album is really cool, too. Check it out.

(Fun Fact #45: Plug One and Plug Two are how Posdnuos and Trugoy refer to themselves on this record. The names come from the mixer input that each of their microphones were plugged into.)

90. Duran Duran - The Reflex

As I've mentioned before, I've embraced my pop-perfect music side. So I was made for Duran Duran and they for me. But I'm not so myopic that I don't realize that as pop-perfect as many of their songs may be, they're not life-changing pieces of musical art. Nonetheless, Duran Duran had to be on this list. They've got tons of great songs, but "The Reflex" is the band at its pop perfection best.

Once again, though, I'm going to recommend a specific version of this song. It's the 7"remix version that Nile Rodgers did. Rodgers, who gained his first fame as a member of the disco/funk band Chic and then as a mega-producer (first with Madonna and later with the Duranies on their Notorious record). The album version of the song is good, but Rodgers took it to the next level with his remix. The 80's were the Renaissance in the history of remixes, and this version may not quite be a Michelangelo, but it's close. There's a 12" version of the remix as well, but this trimmed and fit version keeps all the great parts and removes the dance-club extras (and a superfluous four minutes as well).

Once again, musical purists may cry foul at my adding a remix version of a song for a list like this, but I've got the facts on my side. Go purchase Seven and the Ragged Tiger and Duran Duran's first greatest hits collection, Decade. Both have "The Reflex" on them. Listen to track one on Ragged Tiger. That's the album version. Now listen to track eight on Decade? Go ahead, I'll wait.......

See! It's the Nile Rodgers remix! Even Duran Duran admits that this remix is the definitive version of "The Reflex." So let's move on to the song itself and why I think it's so good.

The one great thing that Nile Rodgers did was to give all of the instruments a chance to shine. In 80's pop music, that didn't happen very much. It's fun to watch some of the old Wham! videos and wonder why Andrew Ridgley had a guitar when there wasn't any guitar sound in the song they were doing the video for. But with Duran Duran, they were all talented musicians who deserved to be heard. And Nile gave them the chance to be heard in his remix for "The Reflex." There's great guitar work that Andy Taylor provides that is lost in the original. Some really cool quick picking during the pre-chorus. John Taylor plays some really nice bass, but doesn't get so flashy that it detracts from the song. Don't get me started on how underrated a bass player John is, because I'll go to the mattresses for my boy. Nick Rhodes is one of the best atmospheric keyboard players I've ever heard, and that's a big compliment. The way he just adds layers to so many of their songs that you never really notice unless you're really paying attention is such a nice attitude to see, especially in the "Me Generation" of the 80's. Roger Taylor's (seriously, three unrelated Taylors in one band? What are the odds?) drum playing is crisp and punchy, just what a great dance song needs. Give a good listen to the choruses. You can easily pick out each instrument, but it's not so noticeable that it seems like all the musicians are saying, "Listen to me!"

Simon LeBon has a great pop singing voice. It may be a little weak for other types of music, but it works great for this kind of music. He probably gets too much flack for his voice and maybe some of it is deserved, but you don't need a great voice to be a great singer for your songs. Look at Bono. Great voice? Um, no. But it works for the kinds of songs U2 does. Same for Simon. He never tries to be what he isn't, and that's refreshing.

Okay, I've avoided it long enough. Talk about any Duran Duran song, and inevitably the conversation has to address the lyrics. What in the hell is Simon trying to say in any of them? I'm tempted to print them all here and just start a literary professor round table to try and find out what they mean. Two different examples:

You've gone too far this time
But I'm dancing on the valentine
I tell you somebody's fooling around -
With my chances on the dangerline

First line, okay, I get that? Second line? Uh, I know you can't really dance on a valentine, so what's that about? Somebody's fooling around, okay I get that. But what's a danger line? And is that one word or two?

and then...

Im on a ride and I want to get off
But they wont slow down the roundabout
I sold the Renoir and the TV set
Don't want to be around when this gets out

Again, first line - got it. Second line? Okay, I know what a roundabout is, like Columbus Circle in Manhattan, but what does that have to do with this ride Simon's on? Next line. Okay he sold the Renoir and the TV set. That makes sense, but really, if you've got a Renoir and you sell it, wouldn't you get enough money that you could keep the TV set? They sell for millions, right? And hell yeah, I wouldn't want to be around when it got out to whoever that I sold the Renoir. And the TV set. But what the hell does all this mean? They're all sentence fragments that individually make some kind of sense, but put them together and, uh..... I have no idea.

So, seriously, anyone who can decipher these cryptic lyrics, please do, because I am one lost soul looking for meaning in these cracks in the pavement. See? I just did it. It makes no sense. Chewbacca is a wookie... (that's not another lyrical non sequitur, it's a South Park inside joke).

But lyrics aside, give this song a listen. Try to let go of all your anti-Duran Duran preconceptions fall away and just enjoy a great pop song by a band that did tons of them. And if you got one, smoke it, 'cause then I'm sure you'll know exactly what the lyrics mean.

(Another aside. I just couldn't help myself. While doing some research on Amazon to make sure that I had the track numbers right in my above remix vs. album comparison, I came across this review of the Ragged Tiger album from a reviewer named A. Pollick "80's Chick." I just had to laugh at her lauding of Simon's lyrics. She must have had one and definitely smoked it, because she is down with Mr. LeBon's lyrical mastery. Here you go:

I'm a Duran Duran fan from way, way back. Like many of the reviewers here, I always felt that one of the band's strong suits had to be Simon Le Bon's lyrics. Nowhere is his gift more evident, to me, than on "Seventh Stranger." Here's just one example from that song: "A year of Sundays seems to have drifted right by, I could have sworn, in one evening."
I do think the album deserves a repeat listen lo, these many years later. I always felt that DD got a bum rap, simply because they came in on the same wave that brought in other, very lightweight, synthpop bands. But listen to their lyrics, folks. Here, they are second to none in the genre. George Michael probably still broods that he couldn't come up with comparable lyrics while in Wham!

I wish the band had decided to include "Secret Oktober" ("Union of the Snake" B side) in this album--it would have been a strong addition. The song is just over 2 minutes in length, but is a finely crafted work--again with incredible lyrics. "Racing on a shining plane--tomorrow we'll be content to watch as the lightning plays along the wires and you wonder..." It's an exquisite image.

DD was an unusual band for many reasons, not least of which was that each member of the group was good at what he did. I think that's borne out in this album, and in "Astronaut." Some bands have an instrumental weak link, but DD never did. But, because of some of the company they kept on the charts and in the clubs, somehow, a lot of the critics managed to overlook the talent, preferring to focus on their penchant for odd clothes and hair dye.
"Seven and the Ragged Tiger" is not a perfect album. But it is certainly in the top five of its genre. It also holds up surprisingly well this many years down the line. Even "The Reflex" really doesn't sound dated. The album deserves to be more than a musical footnote--it did define a sound. It's still worth a listen.

Some nice points there, but it was just perfect timing with the lyrics thing. AND she talked about Wham! How awesome is that?!)

91. Tupac - California Love

It's hard to talk about Tupac Shakur without referencing his tragic death in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas in 1996. Groundbreaking career and life cut short, all of that. Not to minimize the tragedy, but I'm not going to get into any of that. This song came from the sessions that Tupac and Dr. Dre began soon after Tupac's release from prison on a sexual assault conviction (a charge he denied up until his death). He wanted to do a party album and a party anthem. All Eyez on Me was the album and "California Love” was the song.

The main track is based on a couple of loops from an old Joe Cocker song (really, where do these guys find these records to sample? Joe Cocker? That's just too awesome. You know Snoop's delving into obscure Captain & Tenille songs, right? An old Leo Sayer b-side? Dre has it, I'm sure) and a just as obscure tune by a band called Kleeer. Roger Troutman, lead singer of the early 80's soul group Zapp, provided the talk box work and the rest of the singing. So in true hip-hop fashion, Tupac gets top billing only because this song eventually ended up on his album. In a style that we haven't seen since the late sixties and early seventies rock scene, everybody's on everybody's records in hip-hop.

The lyrics aren't all that revolutionary. It's a hip-hop ode to the state he calls home:

California knows how to party
In the city of L.A, in the city of good ol' Watts
In the city, the city of Compton
We keep it rockin', we keep it rockin'

Tupac gives a shout out to all of his favorite towns, from San Diego all the way up to the Bay, and all points in between. He doesn't mention Fresno specifically, but you know there's some love in there.

It's easy to discount hip-hop lyrics for their self-serving banality, but this is art in a new and dynamic way that many baby-boomer rock critics just don't understand. Hell, I'm no baby boomer, and even I think parts of it are pure misogyny and narcissism. But that's the point. These songs are about puffing your chest out and thumping it King Kong style, because nobody else is ever going to do it. These guys kicked their way out of the parts of L.A. that us Valley boys can't even find on a Thomas Brothers (I know I'm an Cali snob, too. Ask someone from California what a Thomas Brothers is), much less have ever been to. There's a certain gladiator side to the way the west coast hip-hop community arose and keeps fighting for their existence and their respect. It's no wonder why these guys love the movies Scarface and Gladiator. They're living the same lives, just a decade (or couple thousand years) later.

So maybe I'm not supposed to understand it. But that's okay, because "California Love" is still a great song, maybe even more so since it's not even meant for someone like me.

92. Pink Floyd - Run Like Hell

I’m not a big Pink Floyd fan. It’s like olives. I mean, they’re okay, but if the world stopped producing olives, I wouldn’t be heartbroken. Same thing with Pink Floyd. I can appreciate The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon for the genius that they are but they just doesn’t grab me like they have so many others. My best friend, Tood, who bows at the altar of Roger Waters, has been trying to convert me for years. The fact that I’ve actually put a song by a band I’m so ho-hum about will, no doubt, confuse you, but it will please him immensely. He loves Floyd so much, that he even loves them after Waters left, kind a like me and the Dave and Sammy Van Halens. I didn’t really care as long as they put out great music. Uh oh, a digression and a discussion for another day.

Back to Run Like Hell. It comes from the album, The Wall, of course, which is one of those albums that is as much a work of genius as it is a complete indulgence of massive scale by the band, especially Roger Waters. The pomposity and self-importance of this album hits you over the head with every single lyric. They wanted to make the next Tommy and may have even surpassed it with the album and then the movie that Alan Parker directed. The student is the master indeed. Oh crap, another digression.

Back to the lyrics:

Feel the bile rising,
From your guilty past.
With your nerves in tatters,
As the cockleshell shatters,
And the hammers batter
Down your door,
You better run.

I guess I'm coming across a bit jaded and maybe even hostile to Waters & Co., but the whole "feel the bile rising from your guilty past" thing comes across as a bit over the top, but then again, maybe that's the point of the whole concept and I'm just missing the boat. If you gave me ten minutes, I'm sure I could find even more over the top examples from my faves, U2.

But seriously, though, this is a great rock song.

This is the first of my Top 100 where I actually am talking about a specific version of the song. The one I want you to listen to is the live version that they recorded (sans Roger Waters) at Knebworth in 1990. Now, I’m sure Todd will throw a hissy fit that I’m discounting the album version, but there are a couple of reasons that it’s okay. Firstly, this is a David Gilmour song, really. He plays the killer guitar and sings most of the lyrics on the album version, so Waters isn’t as a big a player as he is for virtually the rest of The Wall. Secondly, the guitar intro to the song that Gilmour does is so awesome, I’d almost just put that on this list. The echo/reverb stuff he does is stellar. And if you ever see the video of it, you can see the fun he has when he plays it, and isn't that the whole point?

So I guess I like olives more than I thought I did.

(I can't believe I actually found this specific performance online! Here you go...)

93. Rick Springfield - Jessie's Girl

There are some songs that I’m a bit embarrassed that I put on this list. I know my friends will shake their heads in disgust. I think my brother Scott might even vomit in his mouth a little when he see’s #93. But, damn it, I just couldn’t help it. You put this song on, and I’m singing along in less than two seconds. It’s just a killer pop song from start to finish.

The lyrics are absolutely preposterous. A guy is in love with his friend’s girlfriend. “And she’s loving him with that body, I just know it.” Are you kidding me with that line? But then again, how many of us guys have been in this exact same situation. You start thinking, “Just how good a friend is Jessie? ‘Cause, man, Amanda is so perfect. She’s smart, pretty - funny in that non-judgmental way. And she likes sports! Sure I've known Jessie since junior high, but how much of a loss would that really be? He's kind of whiny anyway.” We can all imagine that situation.

This song is what I like to call pop-perfect. It’s a perfect representation of pop music. “Mmmm bop” by Hanson is another quick example, to give you a frame of reference. They’re songs you listen to and you don’t want to like, but they just grab a hold of you and dig into your brain like the Ceti-Alpha-Five worms in Wrath of Khan. Most of my music purist buddies fight the pop-perfect impulse relentlessly. I, however, submitted to it years ago and never looked back.

To make this song even more absurd, it’s by Rick Springfield, who came to fame first as Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital. Doesn’t this just make this song the precursor to “Heartbeat” by Don Johnson? No, I say. You see, Rick Springfield was a musician first, who then went into acting, while never abandoning his first love – music. I know, nobody should know this much about Rick Springfield unless he’s just watched Rick’s Behind the Music (which is great, by the way). Even so, put this song on and let your pretentions fade away. I guarantee you’ll enjoy it.

And Scott, I hope you didn’t have a fish taco for lunch. Sorry.

(There’s a killer scene in the movie Keeping the Faith, starring Edward Norton & Ben Stiller, that has Ken Leung (from Lost) doing a great karaoke to this song. Even if the movie isn’t your cup of tea, youtube “My name is Dong! Rhymes with Flang!” and you won’t regret it. Actually, I'll put in in below along with Rick's original video.)

94. Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Someday I Suppose

Ska is a very jealous lover. For years this type of music was very straightforward without too much deviation. Those who did deviate did so at their peril – until The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. They took ska and infused some serious metal elements and took a marriage made in a Boggle cube and made some seriously good music.

“Someday I Suppose” starts like many ska songs with the horns keeping the beat. But this beat builds and builds (not unlike “Enter Sandman” by Metallica) with the drums and bass jumping in, until this metal guitar just grabs the song and tears off. Then, just as quickly, the metal guitar disappears and the almost jazzy ska guitar takes its place. They play tag for the rest of the song while keeping you interested. It’s almost like they were a ska band and then ran into a metal virtuoso who wanted to join their band but was unable to play any other kind of guitar style. However it happened, this is a killer ska/metal/who knows what? song.

Dicky Barrett, the Bosstone’s lead singer, has one of those killer rock voices that make you wonder how he could possibly make it through an entire concert with his vocal chords intact. But he sings this song with the right amount of indifference that the lyrics echo and then tears it loose when they get to the chorus. This song is a kind of anthem to the apathetic twentysomething of the nineties who maybe wanted to care about life, but just couldn’t muster up the energy. These lyrics sum up the whole vibe of the song pretty well:

There was a girl and I don’t know her name either
She gave me love and I swore I’d never leave her
If I did Id come back someday and find her
Maybe I will I should write down a reminder

As a full-disclosure coda-type thing, I have to admit that I was exposed to the Mighty Mighty Bosstones not by some cool friend from Boston who had the original vinyl pressings of the early EP’s, but by Alicia Silverstone and Amy Heckerling’s Clueless (a guilty pleasure, I admit, but underrated as a comedy). The band appeared in the ubiquitous college party scene and I was hooked. But I guess it doesn’t matter what gets you to listen to a great band as long as you listen, right? Yeah, that’s what I'll keep telling myself when I go see the new Hannah Montana movie…

(Say what you want about Clueless, but the movie has a great soundtrack. There are some cool covers, most notably the Psychedelic Furs' "The Ghost in You" by Counting Crows. The Bosstones are there as well as a fantastic song by Jill Sobule - "Supermodel." "Rolling With My Homies" by Coolio? Hell, yeah. What makes a great soundtrack is you get a bunch of music that you wouldn't normally be exposed to. This is a GREAT soundtrack. Go get it and listen to it. It's for sale used all over the place, including a used one for .01 on Amazon.)

The record company wouldn't let Youtube embed the video in my post, but you can use the link below to watch the video.


95. The Smiths - How Soon Is Now?

I have no idea what on earth makes that noise at the beginning of this song, but it is an amazing sound. I could probably listen to a loop of just that for four minutes and be happy. Johnny Marr, guitarist and songwriter, said it was an oscillating guitar effect, but it’s gotta be something more than that. It’s like The Edge saying the beginning of “Even Better Than the Real Thing” is just some basic neckwork on the guitar. He’s being modest.

And that’s just the beginning. There’s that haunting wail of a slide guitar that matches the despair of the lyrics to come.

Marr wrote some great music, but they needed their singer and lyricist to do his magic, and Morrissey did not dissappoint. It’s a song about apathy and shyness. That seems to sum up Morrissey pretty good. The line "I am the son, and the heir, of a shyness that is criminally vulgar / I am the son and heir, of nothing in particular" seems to be like so many people I knew in high school. They so much wanted to be a part of things but just couldn’t get up from that chair. Especially the way he sings the “nothing in particular” line. There’s so much apathy in his phrasing it gives the lyrics even more depth. A friend of mine called Morrissey the saddest bastard in the history of the world. That may be right, but the sad ones write some of the best lyrics.

There is some strange whistling in there that I couldn’t figure out and always thought was pretty dumb. Then I read the lyrics more closely and realized how it fit in. The whole song is about loneliness and being so terribly shy. What do you do when you’re alone somewhere with nothing to keep you busy? You whistle a little tune to amuse yourself. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but it just seems that Morrissey is so “in character” in his singing, that he took it that extra step to keep it genuine. So now I think that’s pretty cool.

This song was actually first a B-side (youngsters, look it up on Wikipedia) to their song “William, It Was Really Nothing.” A B-Side? How could they? Well, they didn’t, really. The band really liked the song, but the record company wasn’t so sure, to they basically thew it away on the back of the “William” 12”. Goes to show you that record companies don’t know much about great music. They just want “popular” music. This song ended up being both, thank goodness.

From time to time in these posts, I'll add a little postscript at the end of one with a little tidbit of information or some extra opinion that I didn't think really fit in with my discussion of the song, but I just wanted to share. They'll be in parentheses and italics at the end of a post.

(There's a fantastic Wikipedia article about this song specifically and Johnny Marr's intro guitar sound. Here's what he says:

The vibrato sound is f*cking incredible, and it took a long time. I put down the rhythm track on an Epiphone Casino through a Fender Twin Reverb without vibrato. Then we played the track back through four old Twins, one on each side. We had to keep all the amps vibrating in time to the track and each other, so we had to keep stopping and starting the track, recording it in 10-second bursts... I wish I could remember exactly how we did the slide part -- not writing it down is one of the banes of my life! We did it in three passes through a harmonizer, set to some weird interval, like a sixth. There was a different harmonization for each pass. For the line in harmonics, I retuned the guitar so that I could play it all at the 12th fret with natural harmonics. It's doubled several times.

I have no idea really what that means, but for those of you guitar players out there who are in guitar geek heaven just reading that, let me know what the heck he's talking about.)

96. Jane's Addiction - Stop!

My friend Todd has this fascination with songs that completely stop in the middle and then start right back up. He loves ‘em. Jane’s Addiction not only does that in this song, they has the balls to actually call it that. Stop! Even with the exclamation point. They had Todd at ! Me, too.

Jane’s Addiction takes so many musical styles in this single song, it makes me think that they might have had twenty or so ideas left over while they were recording “Ritual de lo Habital” and challenged themselves to see if they could coherently put them together.

There’s the weird opening in Spanish that had all of us white boys asking their Latino friends what the hell that was. Here it is: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have more influence over your children than you do. But we love them, too. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Jane’s Addiction.” How awesome is that! Subversive, but in such a cool way. And that’s before the song even starts.

It really gets going with a pretty standard guitar riff by Dave Navaro and then Perry Ferrell sets it all off with a screamed, “Here we go!” And boy do they go. Hard and fast. Lots of really cool guitar work all over the place. Dave jumps from doing some restrained work in the verses to really strutting his stuff in the choruses. Then comes the Stop! that Todd loves so much. For the first two minutes, it’s just a race to see how fast they can play. Then it all slows down into almost a progressive rock train of thought meditation for a bit. But then it kicks you in the ass again heading into another of Dave’s killer solos. Then there’s the weird scat-rap thing, and one final burst of insanity. Then, stop.

I had to listen to this song four or five times just to figure out how it was all put together and whether it made any sense at all. Then I realized, after reading the lyrics a few times, maybe it’s not supposed to mean anything. Maybe it means everything and I’m just too dense to figure it out. So I played it one more time, this time paying closer attention to the lyrics and Perry’s phrasing. Nope. Still don’t get it. Don’t care, though. Still love this song.

But when I was all done, after seven listens, I put in on one more time. That’s why this is one of the greatest songs of my lifetime. I couldn’t help myself.

(I looked for a video on Youtube of the album version of the song, but I couldn't find one. This is a very cool live version that they did at the Fuji Rock Festival in 2002. But try to track down the album version if you like the song.)

97. Ramones - I Wanna Be Sedated

So many artists have been influenced by the Ramones, it would take pages and pages to fully explore their impact on modern rock music. I think part of the reason people were drawn to them is the simplicity of their songs and the arrangements. Pretty much anyone listening to them probably thought to themselves, “That’s cool. I could do something like that.” And many of them did. From U2 in the early 80’s to Green Day in the 2000’s, you can see the Ramones’ influence all over the radio dial. Hell, Spin magazine named them the second greatest band of all time, trailing only the Beatles.

This song is so infectious. It’s definitely punk, but Joey’s oh-so-recognizable voice actually hits the notes, making it almost poppy. Tone the guitar down a little, and you’ve got a great pop song that Hanson could have sung (lyrics notwithstanding). That’s what makes it so great. The Sex Pistols wore their lack of musicianship and vocal styling as a badge of honor, but the Ramones took things seriously.

That being said, the reason this song is so low on my list is why I think they were so influential. It’s so simple. Easy chords, simple playing, lyrics repeated over and over. Give me five minutes, and I could play bass for the Ramones. Usually, I put a few phrases of the lyrics to make my point about a certain song, but for this one these are all the lyrics:

Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go, I wanna be sedated

Nothing to do nowhere to go, I wanna be sedated

Just get me to the airport and put me in a plane

Hurry Hurry Hurry before I go insane

I can't control my fingers, I can't control my brain Oh no Oh no Oh no

Just put me in a wheelchair and get me to the show

Hurry Hurry Hurry, before I go loco

I can't control my fingers, I can't control my toes Oh no Oh no Oh no

In an interview, Joey said that the lyrics were written while they were in London at Christmas, when the whole city was shut down due to the holiday. He was so frustrated being in London and not having anywhere to go or anything to do. They just ended up staying in the hotel watching TV. Who can’t relate to that? Maybe not the London part, but not having anything to do – we’ve all been there.

It may not be that simple and true Ramones die-hards are probably clenching their fists, but remember, I still think this is a great song. I love listening to it. It’s just that I think people may put too much stock in the influence of the Ramones rather than the actual songs.