Thursday, February 12, 2015

Good Songs XIII

Round and Round – Ratt
Lay it Down – Ratt
You’re in Love – Ratt
Suck My Kiss – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison
Wait – White Lion
Informer – Snow
That’s a Lie – Too Much Joy
Who’s Gonna Drive Your Wild Horses – U2
Drive – REM
Somebody to Shove – Soul Asylum
Rusty Cage – Soundgarden
Outshined – Soundgarden
Synchronicity II – The Police
Born to Be Wild – Steppenwolf
Magic Carpet Ride – Steppenwolf
The Hitman – AB Logic
Summer of ’69 – Brian Adams
Fool in the Rain – Led Zeppelin
Yesterdays – Guns N Roses
The Choice is Yours – Black Sheep

Much like freshman year at college, this latest Good Songs tape is a bit confusing. It has a few classic college-y artists (REM, U2, Soul Asylum), it has a few retreads from high school (Ratt, White Lion) and a few that make me scratch my head (Brian Adams, AB Logic – seriously 1993 Byron, what were you thinking?).

There’s a lot to say about this tape so I’m going to break it down, artist-by-artist. But the overarching feeling I have from listening to this playlist again (after 22 years – I’m pretty sure I made this on a snow day in February of 1993) is that I must’ve played this tape constantly. The reason is because as soon as one song was over, my brain had mentally queued up the next cut.

It was like listening to a really old bike. How’s that for a mixed, yet apt, metaphor?

Ratt – In either the first Good Songs entry, I wrote about how I really wanted to like Ratt when I was in high school but I never got around to getting their good album. I settled for the awful “Reach for the Sky” and never got into the group. The guy who lived next door to me had a ton of tapes and one of the them was Ratt’s “Out of the Cellar” where all three of these songs came from. I borrowed it and added it to the mix.

Even though Ratt wasn’t even ironically cool in 1993, I did not regret this decision. Especially “Round and Round”, that’s a really solid song.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – I didn’t discover them in college, I went to a party when I was in high school and the person who owned the house played “Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magic” for three straight hours. And their single, “The Bridge” was literally everywhere that summer. Plus, when I was a freshman in high school, I almost bought “Mother’s Milk” but when I went downtown to the tape store, the store had gone out of business.* So I was aware of Flea and the gang.

* I lived in Amesbury, MA and in the late 80s/early 90s, the downtown area was extremely strange. Stores popped up and went out of business seemingly over night—within 15 months in the early 1990s, there were four different baseball card stores (not all the same time). There would be a big opening, everyone would hang out there for a few weeks and then they’d close. Other downtown shops sold one item one day, would sell completely different things the next. The only types of stores that held any staying power were places that had been in business since the turn of the century. One such store was this record shop that I would walk by. The prices were insanely high, and it took me a long time to save the cash for a tape. I finally scraped the money together to buy “Mother’s Milk” and I rode my bike to the store, only it was completely gone like a dream. It was the Brigadoon of record stores. The moral is: I never got “Mother’s Milk”.

Anyway RHCP pretty much blew up after this record, they were no longer the weird dudes from Southern California who wore socks on strange body parts. They became a well-oiled, music-making machine. And like “The Bridge”, they were everywhere. From 1992 until a few years ago, you couldn’t go two minutes without hearing a Red Hot Chili Peppers song. I really began to hate their music, a lot. That hatred is still there (even though I do sorta like this song).

Van Morrsion – He’s made a lot of songs better than this. But this is probably his most famous tune because it’s the quintessential high school/college song. I bet that Van Morrison hates this song, but it has probably made him more money than any other song he’s ever performed. Draw your own conclusions from that.

White Lion – Look, I know that this is a bad song. It’s cheesy, it’s vapid, it’s of it’s time (which wasn’t very good) but of all those really bad, hair metal songs this is one of my favorites. I can’t explain why only, the ear wants what it wants.

My top five really bad hair metal songs that I really like are as follows:

1.     Wait – White Lion
2.     I’ll Never Let You Go – Steelheart
3.     Burning Like a Flame – Dokken
4.     Fly to the Angels – Slaughter
5.     Girls School (video only) – Britny Fox

Don’t let me get drunk and near my iTunes, because you’re going to hear some combination of the above. Man, I have awful taste in music.

Snow –At the end of 1992, Snow burst on the music scene with this infectious reggae song. No one really knew what he was saying, but it seems as if he came from Toronto to sing about a guy who ratted on him, which landed him in the clink. The first three hundred times you heard this song, you couldn’t understand a damn thing this kooky Canadian was saying – MTV actually scrolled the words under the song when they aired this video – but the beat was pretty catchy and for weeks it was stuck in your head. It stuck in the head of so many people that it landed at number one on the Billboard pop charts.

Aside from the beat, I really enjoyed this song because it was a puzzle to figure out what he was saying. MC Shan gives you the most clues when he raps about his pal, but you really had to listen to it over and over and over again to get what Snow was singing about.

The other thing I'm not sure about was why the record company named the album "12 Inches of Snow". Snow is Canadian so he doesn't use inches as a form of measurement, he'd probably use centimeters. "30.48cm of Snow" doesn't sound very good, I guess. "304.8mm of Snow" doesn't sound very good either. And if he went with meters, "0.304m of Snow" sounds downright puny.

Take that metric freaks!

Too Much Joy – In the late summer of 1990 I’d return home after soccer practice and watch “Dial MTV”, which was a show that counted down the top 10 song requests that MTV got that particular day. For what seemed to be about three weeks straight, the same three songs were stuck together: “Falling to Pieces” by Faith No More, “Fly to the Angels” by Slaughter and “That’s a Lie” by Too Much Joy. They always showed the same three songs back-to-back-to-back, always. So much so, I couldn’t hear one without thinking of the other two.

I owned the first two songs, but I had no idea where to even find TMJ’s tape. It wasn’t at Tape World or Sam Goody or Strawberries or maybe it was and I was too dumb to find it. I went a long time with that song in my head, but no conduit to remove it. Enter my freshman roommate Scott Mooney. Scott worked at tape store in the mall called The Wall and because of this he had hundreds and hundreds of tapes and CDs. All of which he brought to college.

When I found Too Much Joy’s “Son of Sam I Am”, I almost kissed him. Finally, I found this song. I am shocked as hell that I didn’t put FNM or Slaughter around it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: we’re running a bit long, so I’m going to speed this up a bit.

U2, REM, Soul Asylum and Soundgarden – these were my “college” songs. I had heard of U2 and REM prior to going to Merrimack College, but I didn’t pay attention to them. I had no idea who Soul Asylum or Soundgarden were at all.  When I got to college, I realized pretty quickly that I needed to pay attention because “Achtung Baby”,  “Automatic for the People”, “Badmotorfinger” and “Grave Dancer’s Union” were four CDs that pretty much everyone owned. The others were Pearl Jam’s “Ten”, Nirvana’s “Nevermind” and the Beastie Boy’s “Check Your Head”.

U2 has pretty much become the Irish version of RHCP, in that I want them to go far away and never return. REM burned really brightly for awhile (they were always considered “the thinking person’s band”) but they faded away.  Soul Asylum’s lead singer David Pirner went out with Winona Ryder for a bit, which seemed to surprise everyone – including him, but they never really did anything after GDU. And Soundgarden just kept making the right choices album after album after album. They broke up, got back together and seem to be in a decent spot right now.

Whenever I hear a song from one of these albums, no matter what I think of the particular band presently, it always rockets me back to 1992/93; sitting in a tiny room with a bunch of people, drinking and listening to these CDs. It’s a nice memory.

The Police and Steppenwolf – Other than this song is really awesome, I’m not sure why I have “Synchronicity II” on this tape. I’ve always admired the Police, but I’ve never been a huge fan. Sting really outdoes himself with the writing and imagery on this track. It may have been one of the reasons why I became an English major – no, that’s not really true.

The reason why I have “Born to Be Wild” on this tape is because that’s what the Merrimack hockey team used to come out to before every game. When you were a freshman at Merrimack back in the early 90s, there wasn’t much to do. Even though the hockey team was terrible, it was fun to go to the games because they played in the best college conference in the nation: Hockey East. Schools like Boston University, University of Maine (who had the best college club I’ve ever seen with Paul Kariya, Garth Snow [no relation to the Informer], Mike Dunham and the rest) would roll through North Andover, slap the Warriors around for 60 minutes then move on.

Every once in awhile, MC would pull an upset and we’d all leave the building happy. But more often than not, they’d get waxed, we’d get drunk and if it was a Friday we’d all do the same thing the following night.

AB Logic and Brian Adams – I have no idea what I was thinking about with these two songs. AB Logic’s “The Hitman” might be the worst song I’ve ever included on a Good Songs tape. Ever. And Brian Adams? I don’t know why I chose this one either. It’s an alright song, but it’s nothing that I ever really listened to.  Strange choices.

Led Zeppelin – Bold choice by me to pick this song as the first Zep song to be on a Good Songs tape. Of all the Zeppelin hits, this might be one of my least favorites. The wheels are completely coming off the tape at this point.

Guns N’ Roses – I think that this is a very underrated Guns N’ Roses song mainly because it was part of the mess that was “Use Your Illusions I and II”. Plus the video was incredibly stripped down, especially compared to the multi-million dollar intertwined videos/Axel Rose madness for “Don’t Cry”, “November Rain” and “Estranged”.  At some point, people got sick of GNR and this song slid under the radar. Which is too bad because, it’s a good song.

At this point in their career, Guns N' Roses was completely falling apart. If they had any sort of self-awareness (and I know this is 20/20 hindsight) but they should have put up a "Guns N' Roses 1987 - 1993" at the end of the video. That would have been a nice touch. 

Black Sheep – This is the only real rap song that I included on this tape. I guess I had outgrown my hip hop phase. But this song is terrific. The hook, the lyrics, the flow; it really is a classic. After the AB Logic/Brian Adams/ Led Zeppelin car crash, I guess I righted the ship a bit. Good for you, 1993 Byron. Good for you.   

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