The Not Contractually Obligated Top Ten Of 2010

December 30, 2010

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.

Two 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 2010 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. Paul Simon – Slip Slidin’ Away
from Negotiations And Love Songs 1971-1986
The Blizzard Of ’78

“Wikipedia is one site that, if I’m not careful, can suck me in for lengthy periods…”

9. The La’s – Timeless Melody
from The La’s
Bales Of Hay, Wheels Of Cheese And Liverpool

“The first time I visited the UK, it was with a friend, TJ, and another friend of his, Donna, whom I didn’t know. It was a memorable two and a half weeks in a rented Daewoo…”

8. The Call – I Still Believe (Great Design)
from Reconciled
Once The Future Of American Music…

“In late ’83. MTV wouldn’t be available to us for another six months or so, but we did have Night Flight on USA Network, which aired music videos on late Friday and Saturday nights and into the next morning…”

7. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Change Of Heart
from Long After Dark
The Colonel

“Growing up in a basketball-mad state and half an hour away from the school that inspired the movie Hoosiers, this time of year meant the culmination of the hoops season with the state-wide tournament…”

6. Jason & The Scorchers – Take Me Home, Country Roads
from A Blazing Grace
Cover Me

“These are the times that try men’s souls and cause them to sweat in places I wouldn’t have thought possible…”

5. The Brothers Johnson – Stomp!
from Light Up The Night
Little. Yellow. Different.

“Thirty years ago, my friends and I were still living in a pinball world – pay your quarter, release the plunger, and hope you didn’t watch the ball drain straight through the flippers as you furiously and helplessly caused them to pummel nothing but air…”

4. Elvis Costello – Days
from Until The End Of The World soundtrack
“They Shot Down The Satellite…It’s The End Of The World”

There’s a cool blog called The Song In My Head Today that I happened across not long ago. Recently, the subject was favorite movie soundtracks…”

3. Donnie Iris – Ah! Leah!
from Back On The Streets

“Even before I really cared much about music, I knew the name Peaches. I’d seen it on the t-shirts of the cool high school kids in my hometown…”

2. Stan Ridgway – Drive She Said
from The Big Heat
Pretty In Pink And The Ghost Of Iona

“Paloma and I watched about an hour of that wretched flick Mannequin in which Andrew McCarthy plays a window dresser who becomes amorous with a mannequin…it’s dreadful….”

1. Marshall Crenshaw – Cynical Girl
from Marshall Crenshaw
Bye Bye, 97X?

“I’ve noted on a number occasions what a wonderous discovery it was the day that I happened across the then-new WOXY in autumn of ’83…”

Cover Me

June 19, 2010

These are the times that try men’s souls and cause them to sweat in places I wouldn’t have thought possible.

It’s freakin’ hot and I swear that sweat was beading inside my ears the other day.

Our treehouse sanctuary – most of the second floor of an old house – is a delightful place in the spring and autumn with the many windows open and gentle breezes wafting through the dwelling.

Summer can be a survival test.

(especially a summer as oppressive as this one – technically not even here, yet – has been)

Now, as we live in modern times, we do have refrigerated air, but, having glimpsed a peak at the air-conditioning unit several years ago when it was being repaired, the technology behind it is of the same vintage as the rest of the building.

It was certainly constructed out of surplus bi-plane parts.

The unit does work given its technological limitations, but, once the temperature reaches a threshold of ninety degrees or so (as it has been for the past week), it’s a losing battle and impossible to keep the indoors temperature inside below eighty.

(we hit eighty-three the other day)

It’s sleeping that separates the men from the insomniacs.

And despite the sweltering heat and stifling humidity – it’s a moist heat – I have come to the realization that I cannot sleep without covers.

Perhaps it’s something that goes back to childhood and the need to pull the blankets up to my nose to keep the dangers of the dark at bay.

There’s no doubt that a layer of cloth and/or down provides ample body armor against any kind of mysterious, ravenous creature lurking in the darkness under the bed or in the closet.

The roots of this personal quirk are irrelevant. It’s ingrained.

And I’ve got no shot at sleep unless – no matter how hot it might be – I have some covers.

To celebrate this obsession with covers, it seems appropriate to offer up some cover songs. Scrolling through the iPod, there is no shortage of such tracks, so here are four of them…

Jason & The Scorchers – Take Me Home, Country Roads
from A Blazing Grace

I quite liked John Denver as a tyke (and this was pre-Muppets). The songs were pleasant and his television specials – him traipsing around mountain settings wearing his floppy hat while communing with nature – appealed to my five-year old self.

Truth be told, I still quite like some of his stuff, including the wistful Take Me Home, Country Roads.

Taking that song 180 degrees in the other direction is the hyper-charged take by the beloved cowpunk quartet Jason & The Scorchers. From the opening, it’s quite clear that they’re making the song their own.

Fetchin Bones – Super Freak
from Galaxy 500

Mixing punk, blues, and country into a distinctive sound, North Carolina’s Fetchin Bones were never quite able to break to a wider audience beyond the college rock crowd. It’s two bad because their trio of albums, produced by the noted Don Dixon, are well worth the price of admission and lead singer Hope Nicholls is a force of nature.

Their version of Rick James’ signature song surprised me when it popped up on shuffle on day. I had totally forgotten about it and probably hadn’t heard it in the twenty years or so since I had first purchased Galaxy 500.

Bruce Springsteen – Trapped
from USA For Africa

There was quite a hulaballoo about USA For Africa in 1985. The American entry into the African famine relief effort by musicians spawned the inescapable charity single We Are The World and the full album gathered tracks by some of the biggest acts around at the time.

And, at the time, few acts were experiencing success on the scale of Bruce Springsteen whose Born In The USA was still reeling off radio hits a year after its release. With the public clamoring for anything Springsteen, the Boss’ cover of reggae legend Jimmy Cliff’s Trapped got a lot of airplay and the song would likely make the cut for any Springsteen compilation I’d put together.

The Sugarcubes – Motorcycle Mama
from Rubáiyát: Elektra’s 40th Anniversary

In 1989, Elektra Records celebrated their 40th anniversary by gathering an array of then-current acts to cover songs from throughout the label’s illustrious history.

(and likely planting the seeds for the spate of tribute compilations that arrived on a weekly basis during the ’90s – thank you for that, Elektra)

Amongst the tracks on the double album was one by The Sugarcubes who were currently darlings of the college rock scene. The song which they opted to contribute was by the early ’70s duo Sailcat who had notched their lone hit with Motorcycle Mama.

It’s a very cool cover which makes me smile as Bjork belts out the lyrics about hitting the open road with gusto. Oddly enough, Paloma grabbed a copy of Sailcat only album on vinyl one day and it’s not a bad record.