The Not Contractually Obligated Top Ten Of 2011

December 31, 2011

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.

Three 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 2011 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. Asia – Ride Easy
from The Very Best Of Asia: Heat Of The Moment (1982-1990) (2000)
Harpsichord Everywhere

“I like that song,” I told her. “It has harpsichord in it.”

9. Bow Wow Wow – Do You Wanna Hold Me?
from When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going (1983)
Mohawks And Middle Linebackers

“It was 1982 and the big bang of punk rock had come and gone without us even noticing in rural Indiana.”

8. Single Bullet Theory – Keep It Tight
from Single Bullet Theory (1982)
March 5, 1983

“Yeah, if someone had shown me a device the size of a cassette that would hold 150 times the number of songs I owned, my flabber would have been gasted.”

7. Guadalcanal Diary – Watusi Rodeo
from Walking In The Shadow Of The Big Man (1984)
Odd Stuff In The Trunk

“Instead, there was several handfuls of straw, a crumpled carton that had contained wine coolers, and one tube sock.”

6. Player – Baby Come Back
from Super Hits Of The 70s: Have A Nice Day Volume 21 (1993)
Cat D’État

“I have legitimate concerns that, when nightfall arrives and Paloma is absent, things could get ugly.”

5. Squeeze – 853-5397
from Babylon and On (1987)
Caller Identity Crisis

“I sometimes wonder what his outgoing message might have been had his time with the “cowslaw” number coincided with the celebrated period during which he was the self-declared ‘Man Who Loves All Women'”

4. Mitch Ryder – When You Were Mine
from Never Kick a Sleeping Dog (1983)
July 16, 1983

“There would never be a time in which more music would be a wholly new experience for me.”

3. The Hollies – Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress
from Big Hits Of The ’70s (1998)
You Go Canoeing To Aintry With Burt, You Take Your Chances

“After a grueling day under the flourescent lights of an office, a commute from hell, and the rawness of a dark winter’s day in early January, does anything goose the spirits like a river trip to Aintry, hillbillies, and Ned Beatty getting sodomized?”

2. Was (Not Was) – Spy In The House Of Love
from What Up, Dog? (1988)
Was (Not Was)…Was

“‘Did anyone ever tell you that you look just like Don Was?'”

1. J. Geils Band – Angel In Blue
from Freeze Frame (1981)
Shuffling Slowly Toward Sound Fidelity

“It was a battered, oblong box – one corner of the grill covering the 45-sized speaker had separated from the unit and the cord was a scoliotic snake.”


Eating Pop-Tarts, Ogling Go-Go’s

July 14, 2011

It’s been too hot to really think of anything but nothing the past week. When I have had a thought, I’ve been trying to reconstruct my discovery of Rolling Stone magazine.

(this all prompted by the recent death of Bill Johnson, who designed the magazine’s logo)

The magazine was not readily available to me as a kid. I don’t recall seeing it in the limited selection in the racks at either of the small, family-owned drug stores in town.

I was familiar with Rolling Stone mostly through a buddy who would mention stuff that he’d read in the issues swiped from his older brother.

By the summer of ’82, the Kroger supermarket downtown (such as downtown was for us) relocated to a considerably larger location much closer to our house. It was there that I began reading Rolling Stone.

When boredom and the sweltering summer heat left us with little to do, my neighbor Will and I would hop on our bikes, head over to Kroger, and enjoy the refrigerated air of the store.

We’d loiter at the magazine rack, leafing through the offerings as we munched on Pop-Tarts purchased with whatever change we’d scrounged up.

The music magazines were limited to Circus and Rolling Stone and the album reviews in the latter were of particular interest to me despite the critical shellacking most of the bands I loved at the time received.

These slights indicting my young musical tastes where quickly forgiven the day we found The Go-Gos staring back at us from the cover wearing nothing but their underwear and some smiles.

Sadly, it was likely the most memorable moment involving girls in any state of undress for us that summer, but it did amuse Jane Weidlin years later as I discussed that cover with her during an interview.

I was also greatly intrigued by the album chart in the back of each issue and seeing the names of bands with whom I was wholly unfamiliar.

Oh, I had come to expect seeing names I didn’t know in the rest of the magazine, but how could I not have heard of an act that apparently had a popular album?

But, during that summer, it was a most excellent way to waste away some sweltering afternoon munching on Pop-Tarts in the air-conditioned cool, wondering who the hell The Jam were, what they sounded like, and why I had never heard them on the radio.

Here are four songs from albums that would have made me go “hmmm” as I scanned those album charts in the back of Rolling Stone twenty-nine years ago…

Roxy Music – More Than This
from Avalon

I remember seeing the movie Times Square late one night on a local station when I was about twelve or thirteen. Roxy Music’s Same Old Scene played over the opening credits

(not that I knew who it was)

It wouldn’t be ’til college that I’d really listen to Roxy Music. A French professor I had would play their albums before class.

And, on nights when I had a shift at the record store where I worked, I found Avalon to be a suitable choice as I went through the closing tasks

Squeeze – Black Coffee In Bed
from Sweets From A Stranger

My introduction to Squeeze came sometime in high school through one of my friends who had a copy of the UK band’s compilation Singles – 45’s And Under. I enjoy their music, but I’ve never been bothered to own anything other than a handful of songs I’ve accumulated along the way.

Black Coffee In Bed is pretty nifty and a bit of a sequel – musically and thematically – to their better-known Tempted (a song I long ago burned out on) from the year before.

XTC – Senses Working Overtime
from English Settlement

I thought XTC to be an odd name when I came across it in one of my Columbia Record & Tape Club catalogs. Then, I noticed English Settlement on the Rolling Stone charts.

A year or so later, I would become familiar with XTC thanks to 97X and songs like Making Plans For Nigel and Love On A Farmboy’s Wages.

But I mostly knew XTC’s music through my buddy Streuss who became enthralled with their quirky style of alternative rock far earlier than most of the kids I knew in college who loved the band.

The Blasters – American Music
from Testament: The Complete Slash Recordings

I want to like The Blasters. I’ve read wonderful things, they seem like the genuine article, and I have liked the handful of songs I know. Yet, when shuffle pulls up a song by the band, I have to check the screen for the title of a song I don’t recognize, see that it’s The Blasters, and hit next.

It simply seems as if each and every time I’m presented with the chance to check them out, I’m not in the mood for their sound.

I guess it’s not them, it’s me as American Music is pretty groovy little rave-up.