Tag Archives: Rock

Best Halloween Rock and Roll Songs

2 Oct

The best Halloween rock songs pay homage to the fun darkness of the holiday while creating an atmosphere that conjures elements of both traditional and modern interpretations of monsters, slashers, graveyards, and hitting your neighbors up for candy–whatever that may mean to you.  What you don’t want is Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s lame Monster Mash looping in endless auditory torture.   Instead, let the rollicking music and lyrics of the following songs provide an otherworldly backdrop for your Halloween festivities.

Pet SemataryThe Ramones
A song written for the movie version of Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary.”  No, you can’t live your life again, even if you’re just a dead dog or cat.  Bad things will happen.  You can trust horror master King and the Ramones on that one.

Bela Lugosi’s Dead: Bauhaus
This two-chord gem is heavy on atmosphere and plays like the electrified chant of a hopped-up vampire cult.  An homage to the silver screen’s finest Dracula, it is creepy and fast and rocks with a chorus of:  Undead, Undead, Undead.

Goo Goo MuckGreen FuzCan Your Pussy Do the Dog?The Cramps
The Cramps, the unofficial official band of Halloween, rate three tunes.  While multiple songs by one artist on a playlist generally indicates a lack of imagination, The Hangover must make an exception for The Cramps and their surf-punk-rockabilly sound.  With humor and horror, these tunes would get the zombies of the Walking Dead to do the pogo. 

Werewolves Of LondonWarren Zevon
A Halloween-perfect romp with werewolves, pina coladas at Trader Vic’s, perfect hair, and a little old lady getting mutilated late last night.  Gory fun.  Ah-wooooo!

Pretend We’re DeadL7
By tying a bit of straight-forward feminist populism to traditional Halloween elements, L7 has fun and makes a statement at the same time.  The dose of reality offered by the lyrics is bitter chocolate to the bouncing chorus.   

Season Of The WitchDonovan
A natural choice for the holiday, this early piece of psychedelia is spare and moody with haunting vocals and a chilling guitar that winds its way through the melody.  A feeling of unease permeates the song.

Midnight Rambler: The Rolling Stones
The Stones provide a blues backdrop to the traditional dark side of the holiday with a gritty piece that includes allusions to the Boston Strangler and images of Jack the Ripper.  (This epic 1969 live version provides maximum effect.)

The Killing MoonEcho and the Bunnymen
This is a masterpiece of atmosphere with themes of fate and loss.  The song is performed with grace and gravity.  The lyrics and vocals drip with hurt as the music churns on.

After DarkTito & the Tarantulas
From the stylized crime and vampire film “From Dusk Till Dawn,” Tito Larriva and his band provide a haunting Latin-influenced backdrop to the dangers of the night.  Halloween doesn’t get any hotter than the dance that Salma Hayek performs to this song in the film.

SpellboundSiouxsie and the Banshees
The psychedelic punk rocker is a roller coaster ride in both sound and meaning.  The lyrics have laughter cracking through the walls and the singer spinning out of control.   Fear abounds as the music swirls.  This song’s otherworldly credibility was substantiated when the song was chosen to play over the closing credits of HBO’s Trueblood (season four, episode four) “Spellbound” episode.

Spirit In The Night: Bruce Springsteen
An early Springsteen classic on letting go of our pedestrian existences, if only for a few hours of the night..  This all happens at Greasy Lake, on the “dark side of Route 88” with Crazy Janie, Hazy Davy, and Killer Joe, not to mention lonely and gypsy angels.  Sure sounds like Halloween.

FrankensteinThe Edgar Winter Group
One of rock’s most well-known instrumentals, it is big, powerful, and fun–somewhat like the monster itself.  But that’s not where its title comes from.  The song earned its name during production and editing, in which recording tape was pieced together with legendary difficulty in the studio.

Party Time45 Grave
This was the featured song on 1985’s “Return of the Living Dead” by one the first bands to combine punk rock and horror movie themes.  Lead singer Dinah Cancer’s screeching vocals and the band’s deep-throated guitars get this song up and going. 

God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II Kiss
Perhaps no other band has spawned as many Halloween costumes as Kiss.  For that reason alone, Kiss deserves a song on the list.  From children of the ’70’s to those walking the streets today, the signature back and white theatrical makeup has shaken down countless households for Milky Ways and Three Musketeers.  Bonus factor:  This arena rocker is bound to confuse any Christian zealots who have a problem with either Halloween itself or any of the “evil” traditions that it is based on.

Best Fourth of July Songs

24 Jun

The best Fourth of July rock music will provide audio fireworks for your Independence Day celebration, the most American of holidays.  After all, rock and roll is American music.  While celebrating the birth of our nation, the 4th also honors all things American:  our freedoms, life in the  USA, and even summer itself.   The songs can be serious, fun, thoughtful,  thoughtless, or any combination thereof.  While there are plenty that pay homage to American values and virtues, these are the best:  

Living In AmericaJames Brown

The Hardest Working Man in Show Business sings, hoots, and howls this paean of American life.  It was recorded for Rocky IV, in which the cold-war-fighting Rocky ultimately triumphs over the Russian Drago,  symbolizing America’s greatest post WWII victory.  The American Way prevails.   Bonus feature: the film clip is also a great example of bloated American excess.

4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), Bruce Springsteen

When one is young, summer is everything.  And that time is never more vital than when experienced on the edge between youth and adulthood.  This song captures that place and those moments.  So much of the American summer is the shore and the boardwalk (or Main Street), and Springsteen draws of a vivid portrait of the yearning that rises there.   If you’ve grown up in the US, this song will lead you back to place you know.

Rockin’ In The Free World & This Note’s For You, Neil Young

This medley of Neil Young songs will hit the highs and lows of the American experience.  Rocking in the Free World (from “Freedom’) is a full throttle celebration of freedom in general, and freedom of expression in particular.  Yes, we are grateful.  But This Note’s for You, on the other hand, skewers the never-ending marketing deluge that Americans face on a daily basis.   Everything is for sale here, including integrity.  Hopefully, our freedom will prove to be an exception. 

Guitars, CadillacsDwight Yoakam

For the heartbroken, lonely character of this song, the only thing that “keeps him hanging on” are “guitars, Cadillacs, and hillbilly music.”    This roots rock/country rave recognizes the basis of identitiy for many Americans:  Cars and Music.  

Rockaway Beach, The Ramones

Once again, The Ramones nail it in the simplest way possible–both lyrically and musically.  It’s summer, it’s hot, and they want to escape the city go to the beach.   They’ll hitch a ride to get there, too.

California Girls & Surfin’ USA,  The Beach Boys

The Hangover was tempted to place the entirety of Endless Summer
on this list.  The Beach Boys were at one time not just the original California band, but the American Band.  They honor the USA with their classic sound here, extolling the virtues of California women and surf culture.   No arguments accepted. 

4th Of July, X

The other seminal California band gives us a snapshot of reality–relationship discord and disappointment on the day itself.   The singer hopes that the holiday can allow the couple to step outside into the fireworks and regain what they have lost.    It’s a heartfelt, urgent slice of American life.

Fight For Your Right, The Beastie Boys

The Declaration of Independence tells Americans they are entitled to certain unalienable rights, one of which is “The Pursuit of Happiness.”  Nothing will stop the Beastie’s from this exercising this right:  Not hypocritical parents or a dictatorial educational system.   Americans have had to fight to protect the freedoms that we have been given, and the Beastie Boys take this seriously.

Surrender, Cheap Trick

On this holiday, one cannot ignore  middle-American suburbia, the  soil that Cheap Trick tills here.  Post-Vietnam America spun off its axis, and Cheap Trick’s portrayal of that era reveals a fissure that while disconcerting is far from fatal.   Weirdness is okay.  “We’re all alright.”

Route 66, Chuck Berry & Drive SouthJohn Hiatt

Chuck Berry’s 1961 cover of Route 66 brought the roadtrip  into the rock and roll world.   There aren’t many things more American than hopping into a car and just taking off.  The virtues of this particularly American  escape are echoed by John Hiatt in Drive South, recorded nearly 30 years later.  

 Living In The U.S.A., Steve Miller

In this most egalitarian of nations, it’s fitting that even a mediocre rock star can write a great song about his country.   It’s a “plastic land” that’s not quite so easy to live in as it appears to be, but it’s even harder to leave.  This nuanced, insightful look at the USA delivers much more than what can normally be expected from Miller. 

Gun Sale At The ChurchThe Beat Farmers

In the 1600’s, the American continent was settled (invaded?) by hardcore religious fanatics kicked out of England.  The musket ultimately made that habitation “successful,” and then the Winchester rifle sealed the empire by winning the West.  The very foundation of America, therefore, is based on gun and church.  The Beat Farmers skewer the irony of this philosophical dichotomy as it exists in modern America. 

American Beat ’84The Fleshtones

The Fleshtones pay tribute to the American Rock and Roll sound, so much a part of freedom of speech and our post-1950 cultural heritage.  Their homage acknowledges the American sounds of:  Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Berry Gordy, Del Shannon, the Del Fuegos, Buddy Holly, the Lyres, the Real Kids, The Modern Lovers, MC5, the Kingsmen, the Plimsouls, Los Lobos, Richie Valens, Martha Reaves, and on and on…. 

Ode To Liberty (The Protest Song), Phil Lynott

Phil Lynott shows depth as a songwriter, philosopher,  and poet with a thoughtful ode to American liberty and the need for it to exist throughout the world.  It is a poem set to dreamy, textured rock that buoys the hope and need invoked in the lyrics.  This is a song that should be heard, especially on the July 4th.

Pink Houses, John Mellencamp

Although there’s a slight risk that someone might mistakenly think you’ve slipped a Chevy commercial into your mix, Mellencamp’s Pink Houses is a wry celebration of all things American:  Freedom and the resulting absurdity allowed by that freedom.   He sings of past glories, ridiculous disillusionment, winners and losers, and the ultimate irrelevancy of it all.

Best Songs for the Recession

13 Mar

The right music can help one survive this current recession.  No, these songs will not pay the bills or put cash in your pocket, but they can help a person deal with dwindling 401k’s and evaporating bank accounts.  Just because you can’t pay your mortgage doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time. Just crank the stereo up to eleven. To that end, the Hangover offers:

The Soundtrack to the Recession:    

Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out  
by Eric Clapton
This is a blues classic written by Jimmy Cox in 1923 and revived by Eric Clapton on his 1992 MTV Unplugged appearance.   Spanning a time prior to the Great Depression through today, the song rings true. 
Pertinent lyrics:  It’s mighty strange, without any doubt/ Nobody knows you when you’re down and out.

I Hate Banks
by Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper
Yep, let’s face it.  There aren’t many institutions more responsible for the bog we’re in than those greedy, unregulated banks.  The incomparable Mojo was on to them way back in the ’80’s.  We should have listened.
Pertinent lyrics:   Republicans, one and all/their tallywackers are mighty small.

by The Rolling Stones
Of course, the center of the financial world is New York, New York.  And that is where the rot of our economy emanates from.   The Stones 1978 paean to the city presciently details the gangrene at its core. 
Pertinent lyrics:  Uh huh, this town’s full of money grabbers/go ahead, bite the big apple, don’t mind the maggots, uh huh.

Detroit Breakdown
by The J Geils Band
The American auto industry is in critical condition.   They can’t build good cars.  Design and production have slipped behind the rest of the world.   Then their corporate honchos take private jets to Washington to get reamed by Congress when begging for a bailout.  And yet, the J Geils band still wants to blow your face out.   Unlike the automakers, they’re still relevant.  
Pertinent lyrics:    Detroit breakdown/yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah/Motor City shakeown/yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Been Caught Stealing
by Jane’s Addiction
This one’s dedicated to Bernie Madhoff, kingpin of the largest Ponzi scheme in history.   One can only hope that his backside brings a fair price in Marlboros when introduced to the barter-and-trade prison economy.  
Pertinent lyrics:  We sat around the pile, sat and laughed/We sat and laughed and waved it into the air

Dazed And Confused
by Led Zeppelin
Nobody has any idea of what’s going on with our economy.  Not Jim Cramer, Barack Obama, Alan Greenspan,  Ben Bemanke, Warren Buffet, or any other expert one can name.   Don’t believe the bellowing; they don’t have any more of a clue than you do.  While Led Zep is actually singing about a woman, one needs to look for only the slimmest connection to see that it’s symbolically relevant here. 
Pertinent lyrics:    You hurt and abused tellin’ all of your lies/Run around sweet baby, lord how they hypnotize

I Hate the Rich
by The Dils
On sheer volume, no one is losing more money than the rich these days.  That’s one of the beautiful things about the recession:  It hurts us all.  Having to sell off a second vacation home can’t wound any less than getting kicked out of your house because you can’t pay the mortgage.  And it just has to kill to trade in a BMW for a Toyota.  The Dils reflect this attitude quickly and brilliantly.     
Pertinent lyrics:  I hate the rich/I hate the poor   

Takin’ Care Of Business
by Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Unemployment is rising rapidly. Factories are closing. Businesses of all types, from the Washington Redskins to CITI, are laying off and cutting back. Soon enough, people won’t even have enough money to eat at fast food restaurants, and then the only growing sector of our economy–the service industry–will stagnate, too. BTO offers a positive life plan for those without employment: Doing nothing.
Pertinent lyrics: Look at me I’m self-employed/I love to work at nothing all day/And I’ll be…/Taking care of business every day/Taking care of business every way.

Can’t Buy Me Love
by The Beatles
So, you don’t have any money. Neither does anyone else. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have what’s important in life: Sex. Put away those miserable banks statements, go out, and hook up. Why not?
Pertinent Lyrics: I don’t care too much for money/Money can’t buy me love

Chocolate Cake
by Crowded House
It’s possible that one might feel bad about having to cut back on personal spending, unneeded opulence, and gluttony. Stop the self pity. This Crowded House song, a biting satire on the fat-and-happy American way of life, will make you glad you gave it all up–even if it wasn’t by choice.
Pertinent lyrics: Now the excess of fat on your American bones/Will cushion the impact as you sink like a stone

Bank Robber
by The Clash
The singer’s father is a bankrobber who “never hurt nobody.” That can’t be said for those running the banking industry today–or for the numbskulls who took on mortgages that a molecule of common sense would have told them were criminally unrealistic. But as the Clash point out, we’re facing worse challenges.
Pertinent lyrics: The old man spoke up in a bar/Said I never been in prison/A lifetime serving one machine/Is ten times worse than prison

Low Budget
by The Kinks
Ray Davies was one of rock’s first socially conscious songwriters. He remains one of the best. Back in the ’70’s Davies rocked the cycle of economic calamity. His advice: Cut back and draw a pint. We’ll get over it.
Pertinent Lyrics: Money’s rare, there’s none to be found/So don’t think I’m tight if I don’t buy a round.

The Hangover’s Christmas List

21 Dec

You’ve got to love a holiday named after a wine-swilling, long-haired, no-shoes-wearing carpenter.  And there are presents.  In honor of the holiday, The Hangover offers our own Christmas list.  And in the true spirit of the holiday, it is better to give than receive. 

For Terrel Owens:  A punch in the mouth. You’d think that Tony Romo or Jason Witten or somebody on that team would have had the balls to tell TO to shut up and then drop him with a right cross.  (Is Bum Phillips still alive?  Could he take care of this for Wade?)

For the State of Maine:  Less Taxes, Better Government.   We know, good luck with that one.

For Religous Extremists (be they Christian, Muslim, Pagans, Jews, Sun-Worshippers, Followers of Satan, or actual card carrying members of Red Sox Nation):  Less scripture, More action (from their respective deities).  Doesn’t fanatical worship sully the very God that it profess to follow?  Wouldn’t these various Gods be tired of people acting like complete fucking idiots in their names?  Shouldn’t  these Gods have had enough of this bullshit and smite their “extreme” followers from the planet?  Lightning bolts, now, goddamnit!

For The Boston Celtics:  Good Health.  The rest will take care of itself.

For Kathryn Tappen:  More sweaters of the shade (some sort of yellowish white) that she wore yesterday during the 12/20/08 Bruins-Hurricanes telecast.  Amazing.  A high-def Goddess if there ever was one.

For Barack Obama:  The cajones to swing back to the left after these mandatory first two years of centrism.

For Kennebunkport:  Less Development.  Do we have to turn every open space not owned by the Conservation Trust into either a neighborhood of McMansions or a psuedo-tony resort?

For the Red Sox Marketing Team:  A long, long, long vacation.  Two years ought to be enough.  We don’t need any hats with socks on them.  We could use a better ticket-buying site, however.  Or at least one that doesn’t have to blame its lack of functionality on “high transaction volume.”  What with the exciting new hats, you didn’t think people would want to buy tickets, too?

For the Red Sox:  Derek Lowe.  Give us a great pitcher who excels in big games, under pressure, and who wants to play here.  And we’ll take a refurbished Mike Lowell, too.  The hell with Mark Teixeira.  The only thing he’s led the league in is “Speculative news media stories on where Mark Texiera will land.”  Pitching wins and Lowe is a winning pitcher.

For News Editors of Television Weather Reports:  A grip.  Hangover Headquarters is in Maine.  It snows here.  It always has.  Every time a flake hits the atmosphere, we don’t need panicked, poker-up-the-ass anchor people screaming “storm warning,” “winter storm watch,” or “extreme weather event.”  If you want people to watch your insipid newscasts, try doing some actual reporting, or get better looking newspeople and have the women go topless and dress the men in Chippendale’s outfits.

For the Rolling Stones:  One last great album. I don’t mean pretty good, either.  Voodoo Lounge was compared to Exile, but we all know Exile, and Voodoo Lounge is no Exile.  Every Stones album since Steel Wheels has been proclaimed in one way or another, hearkening back to the heyday of the Stones.  Simply not true.  The world could use another Exile on Main Street or Sticky Fingers.  Get on it, boys.

For the Readers of The Hangover:  Less hangovers, of the alcohol-induced head ache and vomiting kind.

For The Hangover:  More readers.  Then I can start pimping out the ad space and earn enough money to quit one of my days jobs.   Then I could completely sell out and turn into one of those despicable, loathsome individuals that I despise.  Wouldn’t that be grist for some interesting writing?

The Best Rock and Roll Christmas Songs

2 Dec

The best rock and roll Christmas songs can be gifts in themselves.  After all, how many times can one listen to a pack of dogs barking Jingle Bells or even the great Burl Ives crooning Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?  And enough with the Fa-La-La-La-La’s.  Luckily, rock is a genre whose songs encompass all aspects of the holiday.  There’s the merriment, good cheer, hope, peace, goodwill towards fellow man, heartbreak, spirtiuality, and class warfare.   Before this holiday was co-opted by riot-inducing consumerism and Martha Stewart holiday perfection, Christmas was fun.  These songs will make it so again.

A Merry Jingle  by The Greedies (aka The Greedy Bastards)

A Merry Jingle is a 1978 punked-out mash up of Jingle Bells and We Wish You a Merry Christmas.  And it’s preformed by a legendary band:  Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols, along with Phil Lynott, Brian Downy, and Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy.  This is the musical equivalent of a snow-cooled six pack delivered by a Victoria Secret model clad in a Santa’s Helper mini-dress.  (While the Greedies’ version is veritably unavailable, the Backstreet Girls worthy cover of the song is available here on Amazon.)

Run Rudolph Run by Chuck Berry

This is likely the first rock ‘n roll Christmas song, released by Berry in 1958.  It’s old school Chuck Berry, a holiday Sweet Little Sixteen that has Rudolph “whizzing like a saber jet” and Chuck “reelin’ like a merry-go-round.”  A fitting tribute to a great reindeer.

The Grinch by Mojo Nixon and the Toadliquors

Mojo Nixon’s cover of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” isn’t one for the kids.  He lets the low-down, present-swiping creature have it in a Bad Santa, no-holds-barred, swear-filled rampage.  What else would one expect from the great Mojo, protector of virtue and wholesome Christian values?

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by John Mellancamp

This is straight-ahead holiday roots rocking where a real good time is being had by all.  You’ve got to love the accordion that gives the song a real jump.  Mellancamp’s cover songs never disappoint and just like Santa, he delivers here.

Christmas Wrapping  by the Waitresses

This is no-doubt the greatest of the new wave Christmas songs.  The 1981 song tells a story that is relevant today.  The over-worked, harried (sound familiar?) singer misses connection with a potential beau all year, only to have that Christmas magic work things out because of forgotten cranberry sauce.  A bouncy pace and excellent horns give this suburban rap a sweet bite.

Sleigh Ride by The Ventures

Instrumental greats The Ventures give their surf treatment to Sleigh Ride, and it is a beautiful thing.  No sappy lyrics. No over-emoting singer.   Just wave after wave of holiday surf.

Happy Christmas (War is Over) by John Lennon

John Lennon doesn’t go intellectual here.  There is nothing to decipher.  Gratitude, hope, and good will are up front and unabashed.  All Christmas music should have as much heart and as little pretension.    

Little Saint Nick by The Beach Boys

Nothing says Christmas like the sun-drenched harmonies of the Beach Boys.  They give Santa’s sleigh the Little Duece Coupe/Shut Down car song treatment.  Christmas soars with the high notes of the vocals.

2000 Miles by The Pretenders

Chrissie Hynde’s voice has been described as snarky, sultry, smoky, and sexy.  But on this heartfelt song of longing, it’s simply pretty.  Heartache and hope never sounded so beautiful.

All I Want For Christmas Is A Rock n Roll Guitar by The Stompers

Boston club-goers will recognize this tilt by The Stompers.  Sal Baglio and the band plead for the one present that will make life complete.  And they do it in the all-out style that the band was known for.  They just don’t want the guitar, they need it. 

Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley

The King puts his stamp on Christmas with several songs, but none have the depth of this one.  In an unplugged segment of his ’68 Comeback Special, Elvis lets his voice carry the song.   Elvis could do it all–and here he shows how it’s done: 

Father Christmas by The Kinks

Leave it to Ray Davies to bring a dose of economic reality to Christmas with typical Kinks crunch.  Davies points out that not everyone’s holiday is egg nog, over-sized Teddy Bears, and carols by the fire.  His character, a department store Santa, is accosted by a gang of kids.  As usual, Davies’ lyrics are humorous and poignant as the kids tell him: 

Father Christmas, give us some money
We got no time for your silly toys
Well beat you up if you dont hand it over
Give all the toys to the little rich boys

Have yourself a merry merry christmas
Have yourself a good time
But remember the kids who got nothin
While youre drinkin down your wine

It’s a Christmas message for us all.

Warren Zevon’s Not So Quiet Normal Life

24 Nov

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, the 2007 Warren Zevon biography penned by Zevon’s ex-wife, Crystal, is a remarkable book.   A reader will experience moments of awe, disbelief, elation, and horror. When Zevon was diagnosed with cancer in 2002, he asked Crystal to tell the whole truth in writing his story, “even the awful, ugly parts.”  She did not flinch.  The book presents a view of Zevon that could not possibly be more honest.    Sharing traits with many of his characters, Zevon is at times genius, drunk, twisted, and hilarious.  To paraphrase one of his own songs, his shit was fucked up.

Crystal Zevon interviewed eighty-seven people for the book.  Their accounts are presented in the first person, as are her own remembrances.  Excerpts from Warren’s journal are also shared.   The reader sees hardships and challenges on every page–some external, many emanating from within.  But as Zevon careened through drug, alcohol, and sex addiction, one thing remained constant:  He never compromised his musical integrity.  And that cost him.  He did not achieve the financial and popular success he felt he deserved.  In a 1998 letter to Hunter S. Thompson, Zevon described his career as “about as promising as a Civil War leg wound.”  For Zevon fans, that was all right with us.  To hell with those who didn’t get it.

Bonny Raitt knew:  “There’s no way the mainstream could be hip enough to appreciate Warren Zevon.  He was our everything, from Lord Buckley to Charles Bukowski to Henry Miller.”  When Jackson Browne introduced Zevon to an audience as “the Ernest Hemingway of the twelve-string guitar,” Zevon later corrected him claiming, no, he was “the Charles Bronson of the twelve-string guitar.”  They were both right.  As Browne said, “Warren didn’t have literary pretenstions.  He had literary muscle.” 

The Hangover got on board with Zevon’s ’78 Excitable Boy album.  Although he never became a chartbuster, each previous and subsequent album delivered full tilt Zevon:  originality, a writer’s eye, and an outlaw’s attitude.   All one has to do is turn on a radio today and listen for an hour to realize that Zevon was a unique talent.  It is bitter-sweetly ironic that The Wind, recorded after Zevon’s cancer diagnosis (with the clock ticking loudly during the sessions), led to recognition in the form of two Grammies.   The Excitable Boy wasn’t around to see it happen.

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead will hit Zevon fans hard.  He paid a high price to create his music–and live his life.    As honest and uncompromising as his songs were, so is his biography.  It is a fitting tribute.  No doubt, the Zevon’s will continue to deserve more credit that they will receive.  

{All quotes taken from I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon.}

Songs Every Garage Band Should Know

11 Nov

The garage band is an American institution.   It is impossible to know just how many bands started out as a group of friends practicing in their garages, playing songs they liked–and could figure out. The music was usually basic rock and roll:  three or four chords, a strong back beat, guitar, bass, drums, and sometimes an organ or keys.  The garage sound spans from Chuck Berry and Elvis to the Stones, Kinks, and Beatles, through Warren Zevon and the Ramones to the Strokes and White Stripes. Perhaps the Granddaddy of all garage bands was Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Not only did they practice in the Holly’s garage, they recorded some of their first demos there. The rest is history.

Whether a bunch of stoned teenagers or middle-aged middle managers trying to blow off steam, a garage band should be able to rock out the neighborhood 4th of July cook out, your Aunt Sophie’s fifth (and surely last) divorce party, and any bar in town that has even the slightest whiff of stale beer. The songs don’t require exquisite musicianship but they do have to sound like fun.  The following set list would make any band practicing next to a Ford Taurus garage rock Kings:

Louie, Louie (by  the Kingsmen)

Three chords, sometimes indecipherable lyrics, and a never-fail connection with drunkeness thanks to Animal House make this a garage icon.  This song–that you can dance and drink to–will be a hit anyway, anyhow, anywhere.

Wild Thing (by The Troggs)

Another example of roots rock simplicity at its finest.  Guitar crunch, dramatic pauses, and potential crowd response put this on the list. 

Johnny B. Goode (by Chuck Berry)

Altough unable to be quantified, this song must have been played in more garages and barrooms than any other song in the history of rock.  It defines Chuck Berry’s rhythm and blues style.  Guitar players cut their teeth as beginners and then show their chops by playing lead to this one.

Heartbreak Hotel (by Elvis Presley)

No garage band set list would be complete without a nod to the King.   This will get everyone fired up, especially if the singer can do that hip thing and sneer at the same time.

Satisfaction (by the Rolling Stones)

It’s got the quintessential garage feel, a classic guitar lick, and a frustrated. pissed off narrator.  It doesn’t get more “garage” than that.

Pretty Woman (by Roy Orbison)

This song can work in a variety ways.  If the singer has some pipes, it can be done as a homage to the great Roy Orbison.  More likely, it can be dirtied up and done as a straight rock and roller, ala Van Halen (but please without those DLR squeals).  Either way, it will pack some punch.  Just make sure the singer isn’t checking out your date while he’s singing it.   

Wipeout (by the Surfaris)

Every band should be able to play an instrumental.  Surf music will get the crowd doing “the swim” and partying like its 1969–the time of free love. 

Allison (by Elvis Costello)

Even a garage band should know a slow song.  This one is from ’78.  When it’s dark and late, nothing sets the mood better than lost love and fading dreams. 

I Walk the Line (by Johnny Cash)

This will hit the mark with nose-ringed punks, as well as country fans who have a lawn mower replica of Dale Jr.’s #88 Impala in their own garage.  It will prove to some that you don’t need a Stetson to play or enjoy country music.

I Wanna Be Sedated (by the Ramones)

This will hit the mark with cowboy-hatted hillbillies, as well as alternative fans who have a Toyota Prius in their garage and a motorcycle leather in their closet.  It will prove to some that you don’t need to a habit to play or enjoy punk rock.

Get Back (by the Beatles)

The early Beatles were a prototypical garage and bar band, pumping out the Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins covers that tore the roof off the Cavern Club in Berlin.  They progressed from there, but on their last album returned to those pure, rock and roll roots.  This is also great to play if your ex-wife is in the room or the rhythm guitar player’s chick is trying to break up the band. 

And The Hangover’s Ultimate Garage Rock Song:  Werewolves of London (by Warren Zevon)