Everyone has songs that they can listen to over and over again and never grow sick of them. I know I do. And some of them might surprise you. Want to see what hits my individual pile of genetic material in a lasting way? Well, too bad, we’re going to do it anyway. And guess what? We’re going to come back a number of times because I like a lot of songs and can’t capture all of them in merely one post. Strap in and prepare for liftoff.
First up, it’s XTC with Mayor of Simpleton. I love XTC. They qualify as one of my all-time favorite bands. Their songs are witty, informed, emotional, and anti-educational-but-not-anti-intellectual (if that makes any sense at all, which it does). The music is layered and complex, but still has hooks galore. They also have an everyman quality that appeals to a middling, state-school, Army brat like myself. The Mayor of Simpleton captures all of this for me. While not anti-intellectual, it is an anti-elitist love song that says while I might lack the education and erudition of others, I love you like no other, and I’ll always protect you and keep you safe. Here you go:
Thin Lizzy. What a great rock ‘ n roll band Phil Lynott put together. I’m a big fan of their catalog, but their signature song, known and loved by millions, is my favorite: The Boys Are Back in Town. If you’re of a certain age, you know every word because this song got a lot of airplay in your day. It features a great guitar sound, a driving beat, and lyrics that are perfect for that mid-spring, it’s-getting-warmer-and-me-and-the-boys-just-got-back-in-town-from-school thing. I never get tired of it. Listen to it again as though it’s your first time:
I had to read Romeo and Juliet in high school. I loved it. It’s a timeless tale of true love between star-crossed lovers, intertwined with complicated politics, family rivalry and youth/age wisdoms that just resonated with me. It doesn’t hurt that it’s magnificently composed by another guy named Bill. And it sums up what happens to a lot of lovers: they are punished just for loving, and promised redemption in the afterlife. When I heard Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear The Reaper, with its direct allusions to the Shakespeare classic and its theme of "death as lovers redemption," it just hit me and stuck. The signature guitar lick that initially grooves the tune, and then keeps the song on track when it shows signs of veering wildly off course, also appealed to me greatly. Having a song about death and how we are all going to go there some day, well, that's a favorite BRP subject, too. It was a fantastic late 70’s song that I have listened to time and again over the last 40 years, and will continue to spin as long as I’m still breathing.
Getting a little bit newer, the New Radicals “You Get What You Give,” is also one of my all-time favorites. It took me forever to find out who was performing this song, but when I did, it got added to the BRP repertoire forever. The song meanders for a few seconds than breaks in with a “one, two, three, four” chant that leads to a rocking tune. But it also has great lyrics that make me come back for more. “This whole damn world can fall apart / You’ll be OK, follow your heart / You’re in harm’s way, I’m right behind / Now say you’re mine” And then it rips into the crappy musicians who make millions: “Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson, Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson / You’re all fakes, Run to your mansions / Come around, we’ll kick your ass in!” I love the groove of this song.
Speaking of one, two, three, four, my favorite Ramones song is one that is funny, weird and wacky. It also sports an “it can only be the Ramones” sound. It’s none other than We’re A Happy Family. The punky sound, crazy and hysterically funny lyrics, and powerful delivery make this a classic that still brings a smile to my face even though I’ve heard it hundreds of times. And whatever is happening at the end as the “we’re a happy family” refrain is sung over and over is a garbled, fantastic mess. I hope that this is a trip down memory lane for you, or if not, and you’re a Happy Family virgin, that you take note of where you are when you first heard it.
One more for this post. The Clash is one of my all-time favorite bands, if not my all-time favorite. Their output is the stuff of legend, and the growth, change and development of this band is amazing. As they transitioned away from their original blistering punk sound to expand their musical range, they hit upon a song that still captured their rude boy journey and misspent youth: Stay Free. Acknowledging their lack of interest in school, their mates, their drunken brawling, and their turnaround as they seized upon music as a way out, it’s a fantastic and sentimental song to a friend they left behind. It would be good just for the lyrics, but when you layer on the beat and riff, well, it just transcends into a rock ‘n roll classic. I love this song.
I’m always happy to hear what rocks your boat. Do you have anything you want to share with BRP? Let me know and I’ll discuss it either right in the blog or via email with you. Send it, ok? In the meantime, I’ll keep working on my all-time favorites list and come back with more. I miss hanging out with you, and am so glad that you swung by to see me. I’m always here waiting for you when you are all alone and lonely. Get your Billy fix and I’ll keep you company. Coooooooooooooool.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.