Spotify: Let the Beat Build #4: March 2013
1. “I Can Get Off On You” - Waylon & Willie. KW: Of all the songs Waylon and Willie did together, this is probably my favorite. I remember reading that Waylon said they started working together because “he liked my singing and I liked his.” This track is all about that. It’s also about a dope fiend in love. Perry Farrell could have written this song.
2. “Isis” - Bob Dylan. JW: Bob Dylan started singing because he liked his own singing. But also the singing of a deep tradition of suffering. This could be a song about a dope fiend in love, or a dope in love with adventure, and a woman and some poor decisions. In 8th grade my Latin teacher lent me his Biograph box set. This was immediately my favorite song, and the one that gave me the adventurous spirit to try to wrap my mind around the thousand faces of Dylan. That’s Thotsakan times 100.
3. “In the Pines” - Bill Monroe. KW: One of my father’s earliest memories of music was this song, which was recorded by Bill Monroe in 1941, when my father was five years old. It was a popular song and he remembered his father singing it, just as I had heard him sing it throughout my own childhood. When Nirvana did their rendition of the song in 1993, I felt the shock of recognition you get when you hear something deep down presented to you in a fresh way. I did not hear the Bill Monroe version until many years later, when I got into his music for myself. I read that when Monroe auditioned for the Grand Ole Opry, the Opry’s founder was so impressed with his singing that he told Monroe “If you ever leave the Opry, it'll be because you fired yourself.” Nobody knows the origin of this song, it goes back to the nineteenth century or further, and there are many different versions that sketch out different stories.
4. “Traveling Riverside Blues” - Robert Johnson. JW: When we first heard Led Zeppelin’s Traveling Riverside Blues, we were very excited. It was around 1990, the zenith of the bootleg collection trade shows and the beginning of the pervasive “Previously Unreleased” track. We felt like we had listened to every Zepplin song ad nauseum, except the late proggy stuff (later some of my favorites) and here it was, a marquis new one. The influence from the classic rockers (who spent their early years copying everything blues they could get their hands on) had opened my world up to new ideas and experiences. When I finally made it back to Muddy Waters, Leadbelly and Robert Johnson I realized I was hearing all those songs under water. Same, but different. Good, better, different. I don’t know. But I liked them all. This simulacra was both analogous to oral history tradition and my future experience of identifying soul, jazz and funk songs sampled in my favorite rap songs.
5. “C.R.E.E.P.” - The Fall. KW: I tried to think of someone as foundational as Robert Johnson. That’s a stumper. But I’ve been listening to LCD Soundsystem a lot lately, and if you’re a fan of the The Fall, it’s difficult to miss the influence of Mark E. Smith on James Murphy. I hear reflections of The Fall all over the place. In fact, I first got into The Fall because people were always comparing Pavement to them. Here’s a true but unprovable theorem: half the bands in New York are copying The Fall, and only half of them know it.
6. “Golden Brown” - The Stranglers. JW: I hear U2. I hear The Cure. I hear Metric. I hear Electroclash played at 33rpm. Don’t worry, I won’t give you 10cc of Fischerspooner. But when I first got into The Fall, NY/Brooklyn was making its comeback. Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Strokes. Stuff Lena Dunham would consider “classic rock”. So when I had my fill of the Brooklyn neo-hipster sound, I went backwards, naturally. Bryan Ferry, Buzzcocks, Gang of Four. It was a good time to move to NY and a good time to be alive. But man did I hate The Killers. KW: Aren’t The Killers from Las Vegas? Hasn’t Las Vegas done enough to destroy America? Did they really have to bring us The Killers too? No decency in that town.
7. “The World’s a Mess; It’s In My Kiss” - X. KW: Ray Manzarek from the Doors produced the first X album, Los Angeles, and you can hear him all over this track. Fuck yeah X, the world is a mess. I remember back in high school, sitting out on a balcony drinking forties with some friends and one of them said he thought Jim Morrison was the first punk rocker. That might be true. I wouldn’t be surprised if groups like The Stranglers and X saw truth in that.
8. “Violet” - Hole. JW: Derivative can be good. When the influence is obvious, but it’s not a weak facsimile, you layer the new work with richness. Sort of like Rock On. I’m not a big Pretenders fan, so I’m steering X to Hole. Safe for work. KW: That Michael Damian song just ruined my life. I thought we had a nuclear non-engagement treaty. JW: Didn’t Dennis Rodman tell you? I had my fingers crossed. No backsies.
9. “Mystery Achievement” - Pretenders. KW: I’ve never been much of a Pretenders fan, not because I dislike them, just because I haven’t spent any quality time listening to them. But “Mystery Achievement” is a jam and a half. If you listen carefully you can hear Iggy Pop covering this song, which would be amazing, and has already happened in my mind, and will one day happen in real life. Checking YouTube now. Nope, doesn’t look like that happened. But it will. And when it happens you’ll be like “that guy, in that thing online, he totally called that,” and then someone will be like “what guy?” and you’ll be like “I don’t know.” Then you’ll be distracted by the breaking news on every channel about a high speed car chase involving Britney Spears. All of this will happen.
10. “I Wanna Be Your Dog” - The Stooges. JW: I love these guys’ version of that Uncle Tupelo song. Nah son. I’m just kidding. Lust For Life got my balls jumpin’. That reminds me of Velvet Goldmine. Did you ever see that? Kinda warped my perception of the players in that scene. In a good way. Because my perception was, er, off. Now I know. KW: I never saw Velvet Goldmine. The trailer made me want to watch something good, like finally watch Ziggy Stardust all the way through.
11. “Chinese Firedrill” - Mike Watt. KW: Iggy and the Stooges were a huge influence for Mike Watt, and probably everyone else on this track. That’s Frank Black on vocals. Damn, Frank Black is fantastic.
12. “Creature Crawling” - Frank Black. JW: I watched a documentary, maybe loudQUIETloud about the Pixies. All these artists were interviewed about how they were influenced by the Pixies. David Bowie and Thom Yorke talked about their amazing sound and impact. When those two talk about how you’ve affected them, you’re doing something right. And if you can be in a hugely important band and then go on to make solo work that doesn’t suck, well then, you’ve accomplished something really significant. Frank Black doesn’t suck. Not one drop. Frank Black fucking rocks.
13. “Banafishbones” - The Cure. KW: I almost started this playlist with “Thalassocracy” by Frank Black. Dude changed my life. I almost started this playlist with something from The Cure, who even more fundamentally changed my life. That quirky guitar in “Creature Crawling” sent me to my Rolodex of other warbly guitar tracks, and I happened to be listening to The Top this morning, so it was like bung-bung. This track really takes me back to being that weird kid who was always listening to The Cure and re-reading J.D. Salinger books. “Bananafishbones” is probably a reference to the Salinger short story “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.” How could it not be? The Top is so underrated. I could listen to it all day. But I have to sit here in this Language Arts class. What exactly is a “language art”? Maybe I can sneak my headphones in class.
14. “How Soon Is Now?” - The Smiths. JW: Weird kid? Shit, all you have to do to be weird in Texas is wear anything black that doesn’t have Wrangler, Tony Lama or Stetson on it. Remind me to tell you the story of the “Black clothing limit” we provoked in middle school. 1990 was the year that pop began yielding to “alterno” for me. We used to go to this club on the top floor of the West End. Level 5 it was called. Then Xenon. Then it moved venues and was called Metropolis. It was a 16 and up dance club. We would “sneak in” and say we’d left our driver’s licenses at home/in the car. It was to goth and bdsm adulthood what cotillion was to Junior League. This is where I learned about Shreikback, The Krays, even Depeche Mode. In a place like this, The Cure and The Smiths were like Zeppelin and the Stones. Jesus, look at me now.
15. “Classic Girl” - Jane’s Addiction. KW: Has Jane’s Addiction covered “How Soon is Now?” Why not? In 1989 or 1990, I first heard Jane’s Addiction, a video of a live performance of “Mountain Song” that I was not ready to see at that age, but I have a really cool music freak for a mom. But it was 1991 that I really got into them, when a classic girl loaned me Ritual de lo Habitual on cassette. She also loaned me Nine Inch Nails Fixed, and Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death by Dead Kennedys. I was not ready for any of that, but all three had their intended effect. I was blown away by just about everything on Ritual de lo Habitual, the cover art, the censored cover, the manifesto in the liner notes, the lyrics, the guitar, the drums, the bass, the production, the singing. Listening to the lyrics now really brings me back, the gunshots of my neighborhood at night, the dreams I had back then, the girl. Good times in the heart of darkness. And now I’m dancing with my daughter in the kitchen listening to Jane’s Addiction.
16. “Taste The Pain” Red Hot Chili Peppers. JW: Diane Cort. Another classic girl. “I gave her my heart. And she gave me a pen.” Though I am sad that Cameron Crowe films don’t hold up as well as I thought they would, they always have lasting value in representing the time and place and person you were when you saw them. And the soundtracks are well constructed. Lloyd Dobler puts RHCP in the tape deck and it skips, so he wedges it in with a matchbook. That sort of afficionado, culture snob, life-hacking anti-hero could be seen as the cro-magnon predecessor to the 21st century hipster. In other news... RHCP and Jane’s Addiction were in very near orbits by 1991. And really important to me. RHCP has a lot of bad, but way more good. But that discussion is a whole other playlist. KW: I listened to Blood Sugar Sex Magik like crazy when it came out. I laid on my bed with my little boombox right in front of me, frequently with that tape rolling (but also, Electric Ladyland, like, a lot).
17. “Hybrid Moments” - Misfits. KW: When I first learned how to play guitar, it was the Ramones. After a little while, I graduated to the Misfits, and I would stay up late banging the hell out of my brother’s guitar and trying to sing like Danzig. Danzig motherfucker! I don’t even remember how I got into them exactly. It’s like one day I just suddenly had Legacy of Brutality on cassette. I wore that tape out.
18. “Ring Of Fire” Johnny Cash. JW: “Can you make the blood go UP the wall?” Those chops. The black pants. The Tom Igoe Monkey drums. Something made me think of Social Distortion. But when I went to add them, I thought, “How can I listen to this and not immediately scratch it for the O.G.?” So please welcome, the Man in Black...
19. “Is This What You Wanted?” - Leonard Cohen. KW: Towering musical father figure types. We can do that. I wanted to put “That Don’t Make It Junk” or “Closing Time” here, but the arrangement on those did not flow as well from “Ring of Fire,” so you get Cynical L.C. instead of Prayerful or Jubilant. This could easily be a Kris Kristofferson song.
20. “One By One” Billy Bragg & Wilco. JW: Towering, maybe not. Father figure types? For sure. I looked high and low to match the excellent swing of Leonard Cohen. Springsteen didn’t do it. Randy Newman didn’t do it. I’ve been looking to work Wilco in here for a while. I think this one fits nicely. Woody woulda liked it. Plus I like how these last two songs are both one-sided dialogues. Which, if you’re not listening right, is a monologue.
21. “Love -> Building on Fire” - Talking Heads. KW: Love Wilco. I wanted to put a Loose Fur song next, or a Jim O’Rourke song, but Spotify said “Nope, Drag City Spotify Embargo.” Anyway, “One By One” is a list song. So is “Love -> Building on Fire.” One makes sense, the other doesn’t. Tweet. Reminds me of “Águas de Março.”
22. “Pow Pow” - LCD Soundsystem. JW: Not exactly a list song, but more of variations on a theme. James Murphy has a Byrne-esque way of saying quite a bit without a lot of words. But more than poetic musings, his voice is more like a colloquial, familiar, real world, semi-mundane reflection on navigating the world. Or at least America. Or at least New York. Advantages to both! Advantages to each!
23. “The Perfect Kiss” - New Order. KW: It is true that I want to be in New Order. I think James Murphy may feel the same way. We both believe in a land of love. And Latin percussion. And arpeggiators.
24. “Arpeggiator Demo” - Fugazi. JW: I know we talked about whether to post the Demo or Album version of this song. But I’m exercising the Selektah’s prerogative. When I landed here, in NY, I had just discovered Instrument Soundtrack. And in fact, it was my point of entry into Fugazi. Like listening to Instrumentalyst before Octagonecologyst. Instrument Soundtrack was my soundtrack to exploring and navigating the streets of Chinatown and Lower East Side, and it flows like a river.
25. “Pepper” - Butthole Surfers. KW: I know you know this one. I was in Arlington, Texas the summer this came out on the radio, you couldn’t go an hour without hearing it in Texas at that time. It’s also a one chord song, just like “Arpeggiator.” I have a fondness for good one chord songs. The good ones are hard to write. Also, regarding Fugazi, I was a Minor Threat fan going back to my very early teenage years, but I got into Fugazi through Repeater, like most people I guess. But I got crazy into them one week when I was in D.C. listening to End Hits all the time. In fact, that week I think I only listened to two other things (Dylan’s Biograph and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s I See a Darkness, which has the excellent one chord song “Madeleine-Mary”).
26. “Possum Kingdom” - The Toadies. JW: Oh yes, I am familiar with that song. Nothing like a Texas hit to monopolize the Texas Radio. In fact, the summer before, the song on repeat was Possum Kingdom. The Toadies functioned as a sort of anti-Jackopierce. A year later, 1996, I had to rescue my best friend from a near death experience in College Station. Not the bonfire or the water mocassins, the student body. I made a mixtape for the roadtrip, as was the fashion of the time. Possum Kingdom batted cleanup after the best Texas road song ever, La Grange. Possum Kingdom was one of those songs that made you roll the window down, whether it was 103 degrees or 45. It was a pop/rock/grunge song, which was a tricky combo to pull off, like cooking meth in the middle of a Salvation Army while riding a unicycle. This sort of alchemy and success is so elusive, that the Toadies never really had another hit. Bands like Everclear, Sugar Ray, Collective Soul and Matchbox 20 emptied their diapers into the kiddie pool and rightfully, bands (not record labels though) stopped trying for a good while. KW: A few weeks ago, I just heard this song on a cassette mix tape that my wife made in high school. I’m sure I had not heard the song for more than fifteen years.
27. “Nothing Lasts Forever” - Echo & The Bunnymen. KW: Cassette mixtapes in the nineties. “I’d walk to you through rings of fire, and never let you know the way I feel.” That should have been written on every mixtape I ever made. A friend of mine once said (on the Rocktober mailing list) “anybody who gives you a mix tape is trying to tell you that they love you, so how could receiving a mix tape not change your life?” Emphasize on the “trying to tell you” part. “Nothing Lasts Forever” is a fantastic song, a hit but not a major one, made in the late nineties by a band known for their hits in the eighties, a song I didn’t hear until just recently when I was going through my wife’s CD collection looking for stuff I hadn’t heard. That’s another something I miss these days, perusing the CD collections of my friends. I had so many good times that started that way. I can keep going, maybe talk about how I’ve never heard a song that so eloquently wove a King Lear-ish concept of nothingness into a love song, or how this song made me consider whether I like The Walkmen because they tap into the same rock crooner thing, or how odd the acoustic version is with its “I wanna play football for the coach” coda (what is that, a reference to “Coney Island Baby”?), or the eloquence of the production, etc., etc. Gosh. Wonderful.
28. “Nothingness” - Living Colour. JW: “Nothing lasts forever...” Does that mean that there isn’t anything that last forever? Or that Nothing, that feeling of emptiness or void, will always last, forever. Oooooooh LTBB gets emo! I think that Echo & The Bunnymen are on that first tip, and Corey Glover is on the second one. They’re also analogous pairs because these songs came out after each band’s zenith. They’re more produced, but still reflect the evolution of voice in each band. That doesn’t get appreciated so much once you slide in popularity or relevance. But you’ve still got to create and keep it real.
29. “Jessica” - Adam Green. KW: Jessica Simpson knows something about the void. Oh yeah. Adam Green knows it. Now you know it. I love how he characterizes her as a tired waitress, a beauty fading but not faded yet.
30. “Got Me Wrong” - Alice In Chains. JW: Poor Jessica. Who will come to restore her dignity. Did you know that Jessica Simpson simultaneously attended graduate school at Columbia, NYU and Brooklyn College? Somethings gotta turn out right.
31. "Get Right With Me" - Depeche Mode. KW: I remember when the malls blasted Alice In Chains and Depeche Mode. When the revolution comes, the malls will blast them again. Justice will roll all the way from Spencer's to Hot Topic, even as far as Mandee's. Not quite to the food court. Perhaps justice will never reach Sam Goody. But we must persevere.