The Not Contractually Obligated Top Ten Of 2012

December 31, 2012

Now that I’ve wasted so much time here establishing a few traditions, I’d be remiss to honor not them…

Almost every artist in the history of mankind has at least one title in their catalog that is a compilation, a stopgap collection meant to maintain interest between releases (often to boost holiday sales) or to fulfill a contractual obligation.

This is the former, a chance to make use, one more time, of a lot of wasted time over the past twelve months.

Four years ago, I reflected on the annual, childhood tradition of spending New Year’s Day with a half dozen blank cassettes as Q102 played back the Top 102 songs of the previous year.

So, as 2012 begins its fade into a speck in the rear-view mirror, here are the most popular songs that appeared here during the past year…

10. The Beautiful South – Everybody’s Talkin
from Carry On Up The Charts (1994)
If It’s December, It Must Be Christmas

“On one of the however hundred or so cable channels, NBC is airing It’s A Wonderful Life.”

9. Billy Squier – Everybody Wants You
from Emotions In Motion (1982)
October 2, 1982

“At some point last year, I started a semi-regular tradition of pulling up a Hot 100 chart from Billboard magazine and dissecting the debut songs for a given week in the early ’80s (when I was first listening to music and most familiar with Top 40 radio).”

8. Townes Van Zandt – Dead Flowers
from The Big Lebowski soundtrack (1998)
“Am I the only one around here who gives a @#%! about the rules?”

“I know that Walter Sobcheck does, indeed, give a @#%! about them. He was willing to send Smokey into “a world of pain” for a foot foul in The Big Lebowski.”

7. David Bowie/Pat Metheney Group – This Is Not America
from The Falcon And The Snowman soundtrack (1985)
February 2, 1985

“In early 1985, the shift in my musical interests, which had been evolving and changing in fits and starts for a couple years, was ongoing.”

6. Eye To Eye – Nice Girls
from Eye To Eye (1982)
May 22, 1982

“As I opt to periodically do – when I have no other viable or unviable ideas – it’s time to pull up an old Billboard magazine Hot 100 chart and note the songs that debuted that week.”

5. The Monkees- (Theme From) The Monkees
from The Best Of The Monkees (2003)
The Monkees And Me

“I suppose that for someone as fascinated by primates, both of the skyscraper-climbing and planet-ruling sort, as I apparently am, The Monkees should be a favorite band for, if nothing else, their name.”

4. Altered Images – I Could Be Happy
from Pinky Blue (1982)
Bagpipes

“I keep seeing some television commercial, touting some MMA bout. With bagpipes blaring over fight footage, some participant is in the frame spouting Irish proverbs in an accent that I’m not quite sure is Irish or Scottish.”

3. John Stewart (with Stevie Nicks) – Gold
from Bombs Away Dream Babies (1979)
Andrew Burt – Or Someone Else – In 2012

“The candidates have not yet formally been nominated and I am already fatigued by the quadrennial excercise in slapstick that is the presidential election.”

2. The Nails – 88 Lines About 44 Women
from Mood Swing (1984)
Cheese, Crackers And The Voigt-Kampff Test

“Having had a reaction due to the ingestion of a certain plant-based substance, I once rampaged my way through several boxes of crackers, leading my housemates to dub me ‘Cracker Vacuum.'”

1. The Dream Academy – Life In A Northern Town
from The Dream Academy (1985)
Ah Hey Oh Ma Ma Ma…

“In the last few days, I’ve rediscovered the music of The Dream Academy, a band which I had loved and forgotten (despite owning all three of their albums).”

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Bagpipes

February 18, 2012

I keep seeing some television commercial, touting some MMA bout.

With bagpipes blaring over fight footage, some participant is in the frame spouting Irish proverbs in an accent that I’m not quite sure is Irish or Scottish.

The commercial always causes me to lose the next ten minutes to two hours pondering whether this cat is supposed to be Irish or Scottish and, if he’s Irish, should his speil be accompanied by bagpipes.

I think of bagpipes, I think Scotland.

I also think of a trek to work one summer day. I must have had the four-to-midnight shift at the record store where I worked. The store was located across the street from a large college campus and there was a small meadow that I would often cut across to get there.

On this particular afternoon, I stopped, hearing bagpipes mixing with whatever I was listening to on my Walkman. I pulled the ear buds out as I shuffled through the grass and past a girl, sitting underneath a tree, playing bagpipes.

I thought to myself that it wasn’t every day that you see a girl sitting under a tree playing bagpipes.

(and it isn’t)

Here are four songs by Scottish acts…

Altered Images – I Could Be Happy
from Pinky Blue (1982)

Altered Images released a trio of albums in the early ’80s and even managed a handful of hits in the UK, but the group had little success in the States.

I don’t recall if I heard I Could Be Happy back in the day, though it’s entirely possible that 97X played the song. Produced by Martin Rushent, who had recently helmed Human League’s breakthrough Dare, I Could Be Happy is shiny New Wave reminiscent of New Order, with Clare Grogan’s perky, playful vocals juxtaposing the dark lyrics.

It’s ridiculously catchy.

Primal Scream – Movin’ On Up
from Screamadelica (1991)

There are a handful of songs that never fail to make me smile. Movin’ On Up is one of them.

Snow Patrol – Run
from Final Straw (2003)

I’ve lost track of most of the music world since the odometer hit this century for various reasons (time, or lack of, being partially responsible). However, Snow Patrol is one act since the millenium that has often caused me to prick up my ears.

There’s a brooding tension about Run that draws me in, almost hypnotically, and, when it pops up on the iPod, it’s rare that I don’t listen to the song five or six times.

Big Country – Steeltown
from Steeltown (1984)

Though just a year after becoming a sensation in the US with In A Big Country, Steeltown was greeted with a yawn in the States. It got excellent reviews and deservedly so as, even without a hit, it’s a better album than their debut.

The title track has a thunderous cadence reminiscent of In A Big Country.

It’s bone-rattling.