01. The Beatles – I Want to Hold Your Hand
02. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Our Only Weapon
03. Jethro Tull – Songs from the Wood
04. Nobuo Uematsu – Terra’s Theme
05. The Beatles – Love Me Do
06. John Williams – Imperial March
07. Jethro Tull – The Whistler
08. The Beatles – Twist and Shout
09. John Williams – Raiders March
10. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Where’d You Go
11. “Weird Al” Yankovic – Amish Paradise
12. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Let’s Face It
13. “Weird Al” Yankovic – Another One Rides the Bus
14. The Ramones – Beat on the Brat
15. “Weird Al” Yankovic – Albuquerque
01. The Beatles – I Want to Hold Your Hand (1964)
Part of being baptized in the religion of rock music was accepting the Beatles in my life. When I was 12, though, I thought they were a bunch of fruity mop-headed sissies playing sappy girl music. Nevermind that the second CD I ever bought was solely to get to this number:
No guilty pleasures. This HOLDS UP.
…though this video is making me pretty uncomfortable.
Whatever my very real problem was, by age 13 the Emotions were becoming unbearable, and through a bit of brotherly osmosis, I determined that the Beatles might really be able to help me out with that shit. So I swallowed my pride and bought a copy of Beatles 1, not fully aware of the path it would lead me down.
I still turn my nose at greatest hits compilations (and I still enjoy the smell of my own farts), but with some artists, you’re much better served at the start with a cross section of their catalog instead of one particular slice. This is often the case with older artists carrying long and varied discographies. A map of their journey can keep you out of trouble when tracing it yourself, but on the other hand, what kind of adventure is that? Where others found disaster, you may find delight! But that is a lesson learned in experience, and I was but a babe in the woods at this point. I only had a vague idea of what I was in for, casting my lot with these Beatles, but I sensed it was going to be big. I felt perfectly comfortable (if a bit noobish) buying a map for this first journey. And we’re not talking about some hokey little napkin sketch you got at tourist shop at the foot of the mountain. 1 is a compilation built on a precise theme: “Look how many times these guys ruled the charts.” Not that I hold Billboard in any high esteem, of course, but…
…look, do I really have to get into why I like the fucking Beatles?
Needless to say, the Emotions most certainly advanced throughout the 8th grade (and beyond), and the Beatles most certainly helped me out with that shit. After spinning 1 to dust, I found myself in much better shape to explore without a map.
02. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Our Only Weapon (Don’t Know How to Party, 1993)
This is what I mean, talking up album tracks. What an intro! How wasn’t this a single?
I’ll tell you how: the rest of the song is rushed and sloppy, like a lot of ska music, and today it tires me out just as it did by the end of 8th grade. Still love that brass riff, though, and I at least remember this song, which is more than I can say for the rest of the album. Horns were a big part of what drew me to the Bosstones, but looking back, I don’t find their horn parts all that inventive. Hell, this track has one of the best horn riffs in their catalog, and it’s all just one big fat unison line, a sadly common occurrence in the ska rush of the 90s. What, then, really sets the Bosstones apart from the rest of the herd? A gruff throated singer and a willingness to go heavy? Barrett’s got a unique voice, no doubt, but the Bosstones were not the only ska band to distort their guitars and smash the drums. So when your sound isn’t particularly original or diverse or challenging, you live on the strength of your songwriting, which for the Bosstones has simply never been consistent. Let’s Face It was a pretty damn good throw, but for the song on trial, well, we’re just not there yet.
And this is exactly what writing this feels like, a trial. I’m dogging hard on a band I used to love, and it don’t feel right, so let me finish with this: the strength of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones is its pure character and its message of goodwill beneath the rugged, plaid exterior. No matter how the songs turn out, these guys are here to rock, they’re here to party. There are only three original Bosstones in the current lineup: singer Dicky Barrett, Joe Gittleman the Bass Fiddleman, and Ben Carr, the Dude That Just Dances. 33 years in the business and their Dancing Man is still a staple. That’s gotta be worth something.
03. Jethro Tull – Songs from the Wood (Songs from the Wood, 1977)
I told you this shit was Middle-earth! I told youuuuuuuuuuuu
And does this song not just take you there, at the very moment the voices multiply? Or maybe, if you’re really a clod, when the acoustic guitar breaks. If you can’t smell the longbottom leaf by that point, well, maybe Jethro Tull is just not for you.
Jethro Tull, ladies and gentlemen. They look like vagrants, but they sing like angels. Or maybe that’s just Ian overdubbed? Whatever. They look like vagrants, they rock like hobbits. Yes, rock, don’t be fooled by the saccharine start! This song is a celebration! In about five different time signatures! Don’t even ask me which ones at which times. Ian’s a madman, but he pulls it off. He also pulls off some of my favorite Tull lyrics here. How would you feel if you checked in a hotel and the desk agent told you:
Greetings, well met, fellow, hail!
I am the wind to fill your sail!
I am the cross to take your nail!
You’d feel more at home than in the moldy trailer you call home! Would you be grateful? Noooooooo, you’d still leave four stars out of five on TripAdvisor, because you’re just one of those people that think they’re being so coy and important by withholding a perfect rating, like the service industry still has a universal lesson to learn before you just start handing out praise. And you’ll be sure to say as much to the wind that filled your dull, floppy sail! Because it’s not enough to be smug inside! WHERE’S THE FUN IN THAT. WHERE’S THE FUN IN YOUR LIFE. You can’t ever just be happy with your moldy trailer and your shirtless neighbors. You WISH you could live in Middle-earth. NOBODY GETS A FIVE. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO WAYYYYYYYYYYY. NO THAT’S FINE, THANKS FOR STAYING, PLEASE NEVER MISS YOUR FLIGHT OR LOSE YOUR LUGGAGE OR FALL OUT OF THE PLANE, AND PLEASE COME BACK SOON.
Like most of the Jethro Tull I picked up on the way, this tune always stuck with me, and if you dig the hobbit rock, I strongly recommend the album. It’s called Songs from the Wood.
04. Nobuo Uematsu – Terra’s Theme (Final Fantasy VI, 1994)
Nobuo was not fucking around. He must have been well aware of the scope of the sixth FF installment as he was writing the music. Despite both V and VI being composed by the same man for the same platform, the difference in style is dimensional. Consider the title themes: FFV, for which my love is public, and FFVI’s “Omen”:
For all my love of V’s title, it’s nothing more than a perfection of your standard upbeat anime adventure song. “Omen” is…an omen. An overture. It’s a nightmare. And it’s where we first hear Terra’s theme, one most fitting for a character holding dark potential…
…right? She’s like some kind of super magic person?
A mysterious young woman, born with the gift of magic, and enslaved by the Gestahlian Empire.”
BOOM, nailed it.
Whether in “Omen,” its own theme, or its other numerous appearances in the soundtrack, it’s a haunting melody you won’t soon forget. No need for the rock engine here; just the march of unison triplets in the snare and the bass and some excellent timpani work in the climax. And how about that spooky banjo? I told you he’s not fucking around.
05. The Beatles – Love Me Do (Please Please Me, 1963)
Aw, crud. How many Beatles songs am I gonna have to try and talk about before we’re done here?
I just ripped these off 1 anyway, so I don’t know why I had to put them in a mix. I guess listening to the Beatles for the first time really made an impact. And I was probably still lost on the real purpose of burning CDs. Anyway, here’s a Beatles single, John plays the harmonica, I hear some people really liked it, it’s called “Wonderwall” please put the gun down, I’m only kidding
06. John Williams – Imperial March (Star Wars, 1977)
07. Jethro Tull – The Whistler (Songs from the Wood)
That’s the second Jethro Tull music video I found that I would’ve never guessed was real. It’s so shoddy, I love it!
This is the song that sold me on Jethro Tull. It borders on the corny, but it’s just so rich and green! The synths have no business working, but they do! Who gives a shit! Climb in the saddle, whistle along!
08. The Beatles – Twist and Shout (Please Please Me, 1963)
Ahh, you know what? I think Ferris Bueller turned me on to the Beatles. ‘Cause I remember watching him dance on that fucking float on his Day Off, lip syncing with the city of Chicago who all knew he wasn’t even supposed to be there today. I remember being a little schmo in my seat, wanting to be so cool like Ferris: clever on the fly, making my own porn on the desktop, in the know with all the people, ready to get married before graduation… The dude had it all teed up. And so would I, just as soon as I got in on this Beatles action. Just another variation on the theme: Emotions in need of Help. SHAKE IT SHAKE IT SHAKE IT BABYYY NOWWWWWWWWWW
09. John Williams – Raiders March (Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981)
Oh hell yeah. Now we’re cooking with gas. My emotions about Star Wars are all weighted with complications, but my emotions about Indiana Jones are straight and true! I still love all three Indiana Jones movies!
I guess “Raiders March” is another hole in my “movie music kinda sucks after a minute” argument, but opening and closing statements often get a pass because they’re overtures of some kind. This is why all three versions of “Raiders March” stand tall. Start with the Indy theme, roll through the other secondary themes unique to the individual movie, artfully doodle in between them, tie it back up with the Indy theme, and collect the cash, John Williams. With a few exceptions, this is the only way I can really enjoy movie music outside of movies. I’m talking about stuff like “Flight From Peru,” “The Boat Chase Scene,” or “Mine Cart Madness”…shit, that’s Donkey Kong, nevermind. These pieces are tailored to the action in the film, and listening to them on a CD is like watching the film component on mute. It’s movie music, why are you trying to rip it out of context?
I can smell your Cheeto breath arguments now: “What about your precious video game music?? Why are you trying to rip it out of context?” Because I find a great deal of it stands on its own! Why do you suppose that is? My guess is the pace. An action movie score, as I said, is tailored to the action. Being a movie, the pace is calculated and predetermined. In video games, though, the pace depends on the player, and a even the most breakneck action sequence could go on quite a while in a noob’s hands. The music can’t touch and go like it does in the movies. It’s gotta be sustainable, so the best game composers ended up with material great on its own merit. This is hardly a universal truth, of course. Whoever recorded my copy of the Super Mario All Stars soundtrack decided to record every single song for exactly three and a half minutes, and without the game to occupy your mind, most of these wear out after a minute and a half.
Three and a half minutes. Give it a go.
Anyway, that’s just me, and I can already feel this argument coming loose at the joints. I know there are turbonerds who slobber over just about anything BIG EPIC BOMBASTIC; I’ve found their swapping threads in search of my own treasure, and Lars Ulrich, I told you you can’t stay here if you’re going to wear that bonnet with the enormous flower, now GO. SHOO. GET
10. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Where’d You Go? (More Noise and Other Disturbances, 1992)
I’m listing the studio version for posterity, because it is the version I originally burned, but the Live from the Middle East version is substantially better. The same can be said for most of the songs covered on Middle East. It and Let’s Face It are the only two Bosstones records I still have. I guess this is growing up.
Speaking of live, I’d totally still see these guys at a Hometown Throwdown. Someday, I suppose?
11. “Weird Al” Yankovic – Amish Paradise (Bad Hair Day, 1996)
OH HELL YEAH. NOW WE’RE COOKING WITH PLUTONIUM.
Before he went back home to Michigan, my cousin insisted I keep his copy of Bad Hair Day. We’d been jamming on it pretty hard all week, and yeah, I was pretty taken with the record. I probably wouldn’t see him for another year, though, and I thought it was bad form to just take the dude’s CD when he obviously loved it, too. I declined, then he got kinda mad and dropped to a harsh whisper: “JUST TAKE THE DAMN CD.” Mom chuckled at that, and I realized I was just gonna have to take the damn CD.
I lost it eventually, of course, but not before committing “Amish Paradise” to memory. With the advent of the internet jukebox, an entire new dimension of music is available to the public sector that otherwise would never have stood a chance. Side 1 of Thick as a Brick? Let it rip. “Amish Paradise?” Let it burn. A lot of people out there aren’t used to this degree of flavor in their lives, so it’s on the rest of us to get out there and spread the gospel. Learn the lyrics, teach your friends, and don’t you dare close your tab without dropping this number.
12. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Let’s Face It (Let’s Face It, 1994)
Goodwill and good times and all that shit. Thanks for the memories, fellas.
13. “Weird Al” Yankovic – Another One Rides the Bus (“Weird Al” Yankovic, 1983)
PUNK ROCK, MOTHERFUCKERS
Dr. Demento airing a guy like “Weird Al” was a given. The alien species, like the human species, seeks primarily to preserve itself. But what happens when a human decides to throw a wrench in the cultural gene pool? Yeah, maybe you get a star-studded mess like Species, or maybe you get Weird Al. I don’t know who the NBC exec was that got him booked on Tom Snyder, but he’s the guy that unleashed ebola for the good of the planet. We owe you a great debt, friend.
14. Ramones – Beat on the Brat (Ramones, 1976)
Even when I was a snotty little bugger, my big brother accepted my presence as an inevitability, and I suppose he figured the least he could do was educate me in good music if he couldn’t throw me in the trash. But you know, being a dumb kid, my tastes were particular. I needed a driving tempo, an instant hook, and some comic violent undertones. “Beat on the Brat” is the ideal song for teaching little kids to sing, upsetting any adults trying to raise them in a shame-based tradition. “Beat on the Brat” is also exactly the kind of song you just have around, all the time, for general purpose. Driving the car? “Beat on the Brat.” Mowing the lawn? “Beat on the Brat.” Grocery shopping? “Beat on the Brat.” Doing your taxes? “Beat on the Brat.” Interviewing for college? “Beat on the Brat.” Closing the deal with the damn Vermont people? “Beat on the Brat.” Hunting a killer shark? “Beat on the Brat.” Picking flowers? “Beat on the Brat.” Stealing cash from the register? “Beat on the Brat.” Taking a dump? “Beat on the Brat.” Dealing with an existential crisis? “Beat on the Brat.” Donuts in the parking lot? “Beat on the Brat.” Donuts at a funeral? “Beat on the Brat.” Beating a dead horse? “Beat on the Brat.”
15. “Weird Al” Yankovic – Albuquerque (Running with Scissors, 1999)
“W.”A. Yankovic gets a bad rap in some circles for the “yuk-yuk” music with which he is commonly associated. And, yes, under the critical microscope, you may find he appeals to a short list of sensibilities, but it’s just typical of the average music snob to write the man off over a measly 14 albums of parodies and polkas. Put away your shoehorns, you hipster pillocks!
Consider Yankovic’s eleven-minute opus “Albuquerque,” a free verse magical realist retelling of the narrator’s pilgrimage to a storied desert dwelling. He grips with a series of timeless and relatable themes: emancipation, miscommunication, loyalty, violence, justice, revenge, to name but a few. His band is stalwart as ever, holding to the two-chord framework as Al cartwheels through the enormous consequences of a life lived without compromise. This is a song for the brave. This is a song for the future. This is a song for life.
I seem to be getting the hang of it…slowly. With most of the important Nobuo tracks covered, I was able to spend a little more real estate on new material, though clearly I still wasn’t shy about putting clusters of a single artist on one mix, or even one side of the mix. And, ughh, I don’t know what the hell happened with the Imperial March reprise. You didn’t miss any detail, it wasn’t an alternate version, it’s just…Imperial March. Again. On track 6. Because why not? I believe/hope this is the only time we have a rerun. I cranked out the first two or three volumes out within the same week, so I don’t think we’re quite out of the woods. It’s going to take a few mixes before I start taking them seriously, and then we can be seriously worried.