Mix Disc Monday: I’ve been everywhere, man

Roll out, roll out for the mystery tour. Well, it’s not a mystery, but this week’s selection of songs will definitely take us places. From the east coast, to the west…Dear God, I’ve never hated John Mellencamp as much as I do right now.

Since half the journey takes place in the US and Canada, we’re splitting this up into sides, winding up in the Far East. Hope you like sushi.

Side One: North America
“Wichita,” The Jayhawks (Hollywood Town Hall)

Funny to think that there was once a time when the Jayhawks were tagged as Black Crowes knockoffs. Does anyone even miss the Black Crowes? Not as much as I miss the Jayhawks, I’m willing to wager. Please come back soon, Gary.

“Wascana,” The Waltons (Cock’s Crow)
When someone asks you what the last great Billy Joel song was, play ‘em this folk-pop ditty from one of Saskatchewan’s finest, and see if they bite.

“Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues,” Todd Snider (Songs for the Daily Planet)
Ah, the hidden track. That’s what Todd Snider’s biggest taste of success was: a hidden track. My question: why on earth would anyone hide a song as funny and as spot-on as this satire of Seattle in the early ‘90s? “Space needle. Eddie Vedder. Mud ‘n honey!”

“Brooklyn-Queens,” 3rd Bass (The Cactus Album)
The late ‘80s may have been a dark time for pop, but it was a spectacular time for hip hop. Streeeeeetch, boooooiiiiiiing.

“Texarkana,” R.E.M. (Out of Time)
Remember when Mike Mills actually played a significant part in R.E.M.’s songs? Truth be told, I much prefer “Near Wild Heaven” over this, but I wanted include cities on Earth, despite Belinda Carlisle’s claims to the contrary.

“Hollywood,” World Party (Bang!)
Wouldn’t she? I don’t care if he’s only recorded two new songs in the last seven years: Karl Wallinger’s one of the coolest guys in rock.

“Cleveland Rocks,” Ian Hunter (You’re Never Alone with a Schizophrenic)
It is as sad fact that, of the handful of kids (I define “kids” as anyone under 30) who actually know this song, most of them will tell you that it was written by the Presidents of the United States of America. Sigh.

“LA,” Elliott Smith (Figure 8)
This is how I choose to remember Elliott Smith: upbeat. I’m still mad as hell at him for checking out like that, but songs like this soften the blow a little.

Side Two: London and beyond
There is a world out there, and while we could have spent this entire second side panicking on the streets of London, we decided to spend only a few days in Merry Ole England before hitting the road.

“Guns of Brixton,” The Clash (London Calling)
It is an unwritten law that all bass players must know how to play “Money,” “Jungle Boogie,” and this.

“Battersea,” Hooverphonic (Blue Wonder Powder Milk)
I actually learned me a little geography the first time I heard this. Hooverphonic soon turned into a wimpy little synth-pop band, but this, which is like Massive Attack doing drum ‘n bass, is just stunning.

“Rumble in Brighton,” Stray Cats (Built for Speed)
History has diminished just how kickass the Stray Cats’ breakthrough album was. There was much more to these guys than “Rock This Town,” that’s for sure.

“London Loves,” Blur (Parklife)
David Bowie is surely still trying to figure out how to sue them over this song.

“Vienna,” Ultravox (Vienna)
Boom. Boom boo-boom. Ka-Kaaaang. Is there a more signature electronic percussion track than this? If there is, well, it means nothing to me.

“Night Boat to Cairo,” Madness (One Step Beyond…)
The opening note is the greatest saxophone sound in the history of recorded music. The rest of the song is pretty awesome, too.

“Tokyo Expressway,” Fluid Ounces (The Whole Shebang)
Seth Timbs is a poor man’s Ben Folds, only without the snark and general crotchetyness. You have to love a song with a chorus of “There was a party everywhere I went tonight / And that was all right.” That is all right, indeed.


Mix Disc Monday: When the postman don’t call on Valentine’s Day

Quick show of hands: does anyone really like Valentine’s Day? For single people, it’s an unpleasant reminder that you’re single (and therefore, in the eyes of the good people at Hallmark Cards, a loser). For couples, it’s yet another obligation to go out and do something special for your sweetie, despite the fact that you’ve already done that at Christmas, your anniversary, Mother’s/Father’s Day, his or her birthday and, if you really go overboard, your date-iversary as well. Enough already.

While everyone at Bullz-Eye is either happily married or happily involved (except for our fearless leader, who is happily neither), we see both sides of this dilemma, and have assembled a mix disc for the lovers and another for the fighters. There’s plenty of joy and pain (but not sunshine and rain) to go around. Dig in.

Mix One: Ain’t Love Grand

Ah, love. Love rules. It’s a scientific fact that when you’re in love, the sun shines a little bit brighter, people are nicer, and your car gets better gas mileage. People in love, according to a song by the Feeling, get special treatment. They know of what they speak. And yet, so few truly great songs have been written about the subject. For every “We’ve Only Just Begun,” there are ten songs like “Everything I Do (I Do It for You).” Because of that, this is officially declared a Bryan Adams-free zone. Feel better already, don’t you?

“You’re the Best Thing,” The Style Council (My Ever Changing Moods)
Shameless homer pick, this one. My wife and I danced to this at our wedding.

“La La Love You,” The Pixies (Doolittle)
Because there aren’t enough love songs with monster drum tracks that have someone shouting “Shake your butt!” in the background.

“(They Long to Be) Close to You,” The Carpenters (Close to You)
Okay, so the bit about sprinkling moon dust is pretty silly. But this is one of the greatest melodies in the history of pop. Period.

“Here, There and Everywhere,” The Beatles (Revolver)
Picking one Beatles love song is like choosing to keep only three toes on each foot. My apologies to “Michelle,” “Something” and “And I Love Her,” among others.

To see the rest of Mix One, click here.

Mix Two: Love Bites

If love is supposedly the most wonderful thing in the world, then why the hell does it hurt so much? There’s an old saying that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Try telling that to someone who has just loved and lost. From invincible to unlovable in seconds flat, nothing will make you feel as unworthy as a failed relationship, especially when it’s capped with a crushing one-liner like “I like everything about my life except my relationship with you.” My college girlfriend actually said that to me, no joke. And in return, I sang a number of these songs to her.

“House of Love,” Squeeze (Play)
I nearly put “Wicked and Cruel” in here instead – indeed, Play is pretty much one giant Dear Jane letter – but this song wins out for a laundry list of one-liners. “She was full of lies and boredom, it came as no surprise that she would cheat,” “I wasn’t Shakespeare, it’s simple / Did she expect me to kiss her feet,” and then the chorus hits: “We seemed the best of friends, life had just begun / But on the roof, a tile began to slip / The house of love caved in, and that was it.”

“I Believe She’s Lying,” Jon Brion (Meaningless)
Like Play, Meaningless has several candidates for this list, but I’m choosing “I Believe She’s Lying” for delivering the killer lyric with an even more killer drum track. “As soon as we’re committing, we’re admitting our mistake / So of course it’s only fitting, that the course we’re going to take is drawn / And whereupon, I’m slamming on the brakes.” You’ve all done it, and you can’t undo it. It’s the only way you learn.

“Say Anything,” Aimee Mann (Whatever)
It makes sense to put Brion and Mann back to back, since they used to date and he produced her first three solo records (plus she co-wrote the lyrics to “I Believe She’s Lying”). Was she talking about him when she said, “If you were everything you say, things would be different today / I would be happy to believe / But I’d have to be much more naive”?

“Good Luck,” Basement Jaxx w/ Lisa Kekaula (Kish Kash)
The flip side to “Ice Cream.” It’s angry, defiant, and there isn’t a woman alive who doesn’t love this song. “Good luck in your new bed / Enjoy your nightmares, honey, while you’re resting your head.” And hot DAMN, can Kekaula sing.

To see the rest of Mix Two, click here.


Mix Disc Monday: Beat drums! Beat drums!

Q: What do you call a guy that hangs out with a bunch of musicians?
A: A drummer.

Guitarists love this joke, but the secret truth is that a band is only as good as its drummer. Look at all of the truly great bands, from the Beatles (I will fight anyone who says Ringo sucks), the Stones, the Who and Zeppelin to U2, the Police, Green Day and Dave Matthews Band. They all had/have great drummers. REM had a great drummer, and when he left the band, they went into a tailspin. Coincidence? I think not.

Below you will find the songs that cause me to break out the air drums wherever I am, even if it’s behind the wheel of an automobile (you’ve been warned, residents of Columbus, Ohio). They’re not exactly the most difficult drum tracks ever put to tape; they’re just songs that made me wish I could play drums better than, say, Lenny Kravitz.

“Rain,” The Beatles (Past Masters, Volume II)
Ringo said it himself: there are all of his other performances in his career, and then there is “Rain.” To listen to “Rain” is to listen to the future.

“Stockholm Syndrome,” Muse (Absolution)
I am on a campaign to get Rush to cover this song, and I will not stop until my demands are met. Of course, Neil Peart could probably play this with one hand.

“Double Agent,” Rush (Counterparts)
While we’re at it, I’d love to hear Muse cover this song. Peart has put flashier drum tracks to tape, but what I love about “Double Agent” is its unusual time signature and the back-and-forth from crash cymbal to splash cymbal during the verses.

“D’Yer Ma’ker,” Led Zeppelin (Houses of the Holy)
If you were ever unsure of what made “Jer’maker” such a popular song, I’ll settle it for you right here: Bonzo’s fills. My personal favorite comes at the end of the last bridge, where he does a big snare run and then, when you least expect it, he pounds his hi-hat, stalls for a beat, then hits his snare and goes back into the song. Sweeeeet.

“Territorial Pissings,” Nirvana (Nevermind)
I once heard Kurt and Krist say that if they had their choice of any drummer in history, living or dead, they’d take Dave Grohl over anyone, even Bonzo. That’s probably because, while Bonzo could certainly hit the skins as hard as Grohl, he couldn’t play anywhere near this fast.

“Angel of Death,” Slayer (Reign in Blood)
While we’re talking about Nirvana, Kurt Cobain chose Andy Wallace to engineer Nevermind based on his work on this song and album. Combine that with the fact that Public Enemy found this song both hard enough and funky enough to sample for the fabtabulous It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, and you have a song with one hell of an awesomeness problem.

“One World (Not Three),” The Police (Ghost in the Machine)
I actually had “Demolition Man” in this spot, but while I was writing it up, “One World” started playing, and I realized I was about to make a fatal mistake. Stewart Copeland is off da hook on this one.

“Happy Jack,” The Who (A Quick One (Happy Jack))
Keith Moon’s drumming is like watching “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” You just never know what he’s going to do next, and you get the sense that Keith doesn’t know, either.

“Up on the Catwalk,” Simple Minds (Sparkle in the Rain)
Steve Lillywhite Production #1. Arguably the simplest of the drums riffs included in this list, that doesn’t make it any less cool. The eight-count is just a teaser, and when that first double-snare drops, just try not drumming along. I will be there, I will be there, I will be there, indeed.

“Block Rockin’ Beats,” Chemical Brothers (Dig Your Own Hole)
Not a fucking word about the fact that these drums are completely synthetic. This song won a Grammy for its badass drumosity, okay? If I had a band, and we just lost our drummer, the first call I’d place would be to the Chemical Brothers. And the thing is, I bet they’d be up for the job.

“Drive In, Drive Out,” Dave Matthews Band (Crash)
Steve Lillywhite Production #2. Carter Beauford is an octopus. You’ll hear him hit a drum and think, “How the hell did he have a free hand to do that?” Don’t be fooled by the song’s Rush-like, descending chord progression in the finale: when Carter is finally allowed to let loose, the song doesn’t descend. It explodes into outer space.

“Pledge Pin,” Robert Plant (Pictures at Eleven)
Don’t think of it as Led Zeppelin Moment #2 as much as Phil Collins Moment #1. Collins’ work with Genesis was fine but generally confined to within the limitations of what made for acceptable pop music. However, when he’s backing up Plant, Phil lets his jam flag fly, and it’s a glorious thing. “In the Air Tonight” and “I Don’t Care Anymore” had their moments, but for my money, this is his finest hour behind the drums.

“The Bleeding Heart Show,” New Pornographers (Twin Cinema)
This is one where patience is a virtue. Kurt Dahle barely lifts a finger for the first three minutes, but when the bridge hits…well, even then he’s just biding his time for the massive hey-la-hey-la finale. Once the hey-la’s arrive, you’d be wise to just get the hell out of the way.

“The Last Polka,” Ben Folds Five (Ben Folds Five)
You can blame me for the breakup of Ben Folds Five, and it was because I looked over at my buddy Tim while watching the band in concert in 1997 and said, “You know, Ben Folds is never going to break up this band. He has the best drummer and the best bass player he could possibly ask for. Why would he want to play with anyone else?” My bad.

“Like a Song,” U2 (War)
Steve Lillywhite Production #3. Had to finish the list with this one, given the thunderous drum outro that the song boasts. Again, it’s not particularly hard to play, but damn, it sounds cool when the right people are behind the boards. I bet dollars to donuts that few things give Larry Mullen Jr. greater pleasure than the ending to this song.


Mix Disc Monday: A holi-holi-ho, and a holi-holi-hey, another holiday



Mix Disc Monday: The one-hit wonder’s other hit

The farther away an item becomes in the overall historical timeline, the more condensed its entry becomes. The same goes for music. Several artists are known today for their biggest hit and only for their biggest hit, despite scoring several Top 40 entries. This list attempts to correct that injustice. When a DJ says they’re going to play Crowded House, is there any mystery about what song is coming up? Sadly, no. God, I’ve love to run a radio station for a week.

Anyway, here is my list of songs that were once successful but have since been lost in the mists of time. Anyone who lived through the era will surely know everything here, but for you young ‘uns, perhaps this will serve as a reminder that when it comes to a band’s career, there is almost always more to the story than just a footnote.

“The Sun Always Shines on TV,” A-ha (Highest chart position #20, from the album Hunting High and Low)
Always preferred this song to “Take on Me.” It’s dark, it’s elaborate, and sweet Jesus, listen to that note that Morten Harket hits in the opening.

“Lessons in Love,” Level 42 (highest chart position #12, from the album Running in the Family)
Of course, I’m assuming anyone even remembers Level 42’s biggest hit, “Something about You.” Sigh. Getting old sucks.

“Think,” Information Society (highest chart position #28, from the album Hack)
After reading an obnoxious column in “Entertainment Weekly,” my wife sent the album this came from, titled Hack, to the column’s author, “pop culturist” Joel Stein. I wonder if he ever listened to it.

“Real, Real, Real,” Jesus Jones (highest chart position #4, from the album Doubt)
Ideally, I’d be putting “International Bright Young Thing” in this slot, but that didn’t crack the Top 40. But “Real, Real, Real” will do just fine.

“Love Is Alive,” Gary Wright (highest chart position #2, from the album Dream Weaver)

Oddly enough, this was actually a bigger hit than “Dream Weaver.” They both peaked at #2, but this stayed on the charts for 18 weeks, compared to “Dream Weaver’s” 14. If anyone knows where I can find the full-length version of the 3rd Bass track “Wordz of Wizdom” that samples this song, drop me a line.

“(Forever) Live and Die,” Orchestral Manoevres in the Dark (highest chart position #19, from the album The Pacific Age)
I never know, I never know, I never know why this song was left behind.

“Candy,” Cameo (highest chart position #21, from the album Word Up)

Not only were these guys funky, but the guitarist could play, bro. And he gets exactly 16 beats here to show it.

“The Love Parade,” the Dream Academy (highest chart position #36, from the album The Dream Academy)
Don’t let the title fool you: this is a dark little tune. “They’re lonely together when they’re not apart / If feels like she’s holding on to someone else in the dark.” Ow.

“When the Lights Go Out,” Naked Eyes (highest chart position #37, from the album Naked Eyes)
The band had four Top 40 entries…and yet this song did not make the final cut of their first hits compilation. Um, sure.

“It Ain’t Enough,” Corey Hart (highest chart position #17, from the album First Offense)
Sing to me, fish lips.

“Stick Around,” Julian Lennon (highest chart position #32, from the album The Secret Value of Daydreaming)

You can keep “Too Late for Goodbyes.” I’ll take this.

“Sanctify Yourself,” Simple Minds (highest chart position #14, from the album Once Upon a Time)
Hell, no one even mentions “Alive and Kicking anymore,” and that song was huge.

“Since You’ve Been Gone,” the Outfield (highest chart position #31, from the album Bangin’)
The beginning of the end for the Outfield, which is a pity, because I found this much more tolerable than that damn song about Josie.

“One in a Million,” Romantics (highest chart position #37, from the album In Heat)
Oddly enough, the Romantics’ most well-known song, “What I Like about You,” peaked at #49.

“Sign Your Name,” Terence Trent D’Arby (highest chart position #4, from the album Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby)
So he never lived up to the whole better-than-Sgt. Pepper nonsense. But that’s not to say he didn’t have his good points.

“Wonderful,” Adam Ant (highest chart position #39, from the album Wonderful)
A lovely acoustic entry from the autumn of Mr. Goddard’s career. Pity he had to go nuts like that.


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