Tag Archives: songs

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.


The Best Songs For Your Labor Day Cookout

29 Aug

According to the US Department of Labor, Labor Day is “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.”   In 2008, that means Americans will spend Monday firing up grills to char steroid-injected beef.  They’ll sit around on made-in-China beach chairs and drink Belgian-American Budweiser, English-American Miller, and Canadian-American Coors.  All that’s need to make the day complete is the right music: Songs that celebrate, venerate, and castigate the working world we’ve been given a one day furlough from.   

The Hangover’s Best Songs for your Labor Day Cookout: 

Working in the Coal Mine, Devo

Sure, coal mining is tough work.  Black lung.  Back-breaking labor.  Never-ending claustrophobia.  The threat of a being trapped miles below the Earth’s surface.  Forget it.  But why dwell on the negative aspects of hard labor?  Devo’s version of the song is bouncy and fun.  It will get people dancing herky-jerky around the barbecue and there’s no better way to spend your government-mandated day off than that. 

Welcome to the Working Week, Elvis Costello

Costello sings a song of welcome to those entering the working world.  The tongue in cheek lyrics slip a sucker punch in the guise of a simple new wave song.  The easy-going vocals and power pop melody belie the survival-of-the-fittest environment as Costello sings, “Oh, I know it don’t thrill you, I hope it don’t kill you.”  You know what he’s talking about. 

 The River / Better Days, Bruce Springsteen

Springsteen supplies some blue collar poetry here, but manages to rock out as he does it.  Yes, you can have songs of substance without sounding like a musician in a lab coat.  In The River, Bruce chronicles the everyman-working man: Tied into a job and a marriage, and the realization that the future doesn’t turn out like many of us imagined it.  Then in Better Days, Springsteen refuses to give up hope.  The singer takes what he has and makes the most of it.  You get both sides of the coin from Bruce.   

Luxury, The Rolling Stones

The Stones’ Luxury is a rocker with an island tint.  It’s a refinery worker’s lament; he’s trying to keep his family out of poverty and the pressure is on.  His dreams and realities exist on a permanent collision course:

I want a real fine car, fly Miami too
All the rum, I want to drink it, all the whiskey too
My woman need a new dress, my daughter got to go to school
I’m working so hard, I’m working for the company
I’m working so hard to keep you in the luxury

And you can’t call me lazy on a seven day a week
Make a million for the Texans, twenty dollar me
Yes, I want a gold ring, riding in a limousine
I’m working so hard, I’m working for the company
I’m working so hard to keep you in the luxury

 It’s only rock and roll, but it makes a definitive Labor Day statement. 

 Working Class Hero, John Lennon

Let this play when the clouds come over the deck.  John Lennon grew up a working class kid in a working class city.  He’s seen the class warfare, and while his message appears to be positive there’s more to it.  One can take pride in the ability to survive in the working world, but at what expense?  One can feel that hurt in his voice as Lennon exposes the cracks in the foundation of that belief. He ends the song: 

There’s room at the top they are telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like all the folks on the hill
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

It’s Not My Place (in the 9 to 5 World), The Ramones

The Ramones say it simply.  They will not be dragged down into the soul-sucking 9 to 5 world and all that it entails.  The Ramones knew who they were and what they were about.  As a tribute to their wisdom, The Hangover will be hard at work on Labor Day.   Rest assured, the hours won’t run from 9 to 5.   

Songs for Drinking: The Hangover’s Best

14 Mar

The Hangover’s extensive research into music and libation has been thorough and produced meaningful results.  It’s shown that a good drinking song will spiritually and physically enhance any alcoholic beverage.  Contrary to some popular notions, the best tunes are not meant to be screeched by a bus full of skunked English soccer fans.  Instead, they connect personally to a drinker, offering reason to imbibe, a road map to revelry, and a blockade against regret.   

(This list may come in handy with St. Patrick’s Day dead ahead.)

The following are The Hangover’s Five Best along with corresponding drinking recommendations : 

“One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”–George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers (on Greatest Hits: 30 Years of Rock)

Thorogood took John Lee Hooker’s classic “my baby’s left me and it’s last call” blues tale and expanded it into a slide guitar-powered “War and Peace” of down on your luck woes.  The song provides plenty of reason to listen and drink–triple fisted as the title suggests.  While Hooker’s version is good, Thorogood’s is great.  George’s narrator is a vivid barstool storyteller who becomes ironic, sarcastic, and presumably drunk.

The Hangover recommends:  a shot of Jim Beam, a shot of Ballantine’s, and a draft of the cheapest domestic beer on tap. 

“Are you drinking with me Jesus?”–The Beat Farmers (on Viking Lullabys)

The bible tells us that Jesus liked his wine, but we don’t know if he enjoyed a brew.  Sung by the legendary Country Dick Montana, this song brings a twisted spirituality to slugging down beer.  It’s a romp that asks the musical questions, “I know you can walk on the water, but can you walk on this much beer?” and “If you’re drinking with me Jesus, won’t you buy a friend a beer?”  It also sounds as if there might have been a bottle or two kicking around the studio during recording.

The Hangover recommends:  A shot of Jagermeister (Country Dick’s favorite, which he often drank out of the bottle while standing on the bar in the midst of a Beat Farmer’s show) and a beer (Ask yourself:  What brand would Jesus drink?) to chase it down.

“I Got Loaded”–Los Lobos (on How Will The Wolf Survive

This Mexican influenced rock celebrates a bender.  Last night it was gin; night before last it was whiskey; tonight it might be wine.  The chorus consists of variations on: “But I feel all right/I feel all right/I feel all right/I feel all right.”  The Hangover is with you, boys.  Fans of Bull Durham will recall hearing this song as Crash Davis and his teammates let loose with the ball field sprinklers and then slid and flopped around the bases in their civvies while drinking cans of beer.

The Hangover recommends:  A six pack of Miller High Life, in cans, in the spirit of the movie.

“Thunderbird”–Shaver (on Electric Shaver)

Songwriter Billy Joe Shaver’s character traces a failed relationship through the rising price of Thunderbird wine.  The song is sung to his woman, with the singer longing for the good ol’ days when “loving you was fun and the price was forty twice.”  Of course, things have gone to hell with the girl and the jug now costs $1.29.  The singer longs for yesterday.  Who could blame him?

The Hangover recommends:  Toughen up and grab a jug of Thunderbird.  That’s how the professionals do it.

“Alcohol”–Gang Green (on Another Wasted Night)

This is an old school punk ode to, yes, alcohol.  Chris Doherty screams his allegiance while his band buzzsaws through the power chords.  The lyrics are simple and to the point:  “No doubt about it/I can’t live without it/Alcohol.”  There are also references to 100 proof blood and cocaine.  And they’d “rather drink than fuck.”  It’s always a pleasure to see a band passionate about their subject matter.  Check out the video on youtube to see what you’re getting into with these guys.

The Hangover recommends:  This band’s T-shirts were formatted as Budweiser labels.  Go find yourself a forty, or at least a quart.

Other songs that were considered:

“Red Red Wine”–Neil Diamond (original artist).  Great song, but if you’re drinking to forget, as the singer here is, one might need something stronger.

“Cuervo Man”–The Syphlloids.  While extremely obscure, this song extols the virtues of tequila and makes fun of martini drinkers.  Could not be chosen for the Fab Five because The Hangover co-wrote it–no conflicts of interest allowed (This isn’t the McCain campaign, after all).

“If You Don’t Start Drinking (I’m going to leave)”–George Thorogood.  This is a good song by a master of drinking songs.  It just isn’t as good as the one that heads the list. 

Best Albums for a Hangover Cure

26 Feb

Although the name of this blog is intended to be a metaphor, there are no doubt those who come here in search of a hangover cure.   It’s also reasonable to assume that at least some readers are familiar with the condition as a result of their normal, everyday lives.  As a public service, The Hangover offers the following assistance.

Note:  The Hangover is not a medical professional.  In fact, The Hangover’s study of science consisted of taking a “Physics for Poets” course as an undergraduate (I also had a roommate who was a biology major, if that counts for anything).

However, we do have experience with hangovers.  While any combination of pills, non-alcoholic beverages, or hair of the dog may help, there is only one thing that will truly cure a hangover:  TIME.  By that end, The Hangover recommends staying on your back, if possible, and waiting it out.  But turn on your stereo first.  

Yes, music can soothe the savage beast of over-indulgence.  The best hangover tunes will “take you away from all this,” allow you to contemplate recent events (if you can or wish to remember), and transport you to the promised land of recovery.   Extensive research has proven that the following five albums are worth their weight in golden Advil:

1)  The Rolling Stones, Black and Blue

The Stones get into a groove on this 1976 release and keep it going.  The Hangover suggests kicking back and riding it out with them.  The album starts with disco-Stones, “Hot Stuff,” likely the kind of thinking which got you into this condition to begin with.  It moves into the rocking “Hand of Fate” before settling into the rhythm that will get you through the morning.  From the mournful “Memory Motel” into the reggae and blues-tinged songs that follow, the Stones take it slow and wist-full.  The hurt in Jagger’s voice and the pulse in the guitars match the beat in your head.  It works. 

(If one were planning on being hungover and could prep, it would be wise to burn Black and Blueand then add “Slave” and the last five songs from Tattoo You.  These songs share DNA with “Black and Blue,” many being leftover from the original sessions for that disc.)   

2)  Blondie, Autoamerican

This album has everything from rap-lite to reggae to cocktail jazz as it crafts a luxurious soundscape.  Debbie Harry’s voice is strong, but soothing, revealing only a hint of reproach.  Instead of the punk elements that gave early Blondie its punch, the music here drifts, floats, and glides.  It’s more contemplative and expansive, overtaking a listener like a welcomed fog.  

3) The Cranberries, Everyone Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We

Plaintive.  Pleading.  Regretful.  Searching.  The Cranberries’ lyrics reflect one’s thoughts when contemplating the previous night.   These themes are embedded in lush, but pulsing rock and new wave.  Delores O’Riordan’s vocals soar as if she were a benevolent banshee.   With songs like “Linger,” “Not Sorry,” and “How,” it’s easy for the music to match the mood.       

4)  The Church, Starfish

Starfish harks back to 1988.  But if you’re going to have some of “those” mornings, it’s worth digging up.  The music and vocals combine a slightly trippy Echo and the Bunnymen sound with a Roy Orbison feel.  It could be raining; it could be that you’ve just been walked out on; it could be that you’ve been used and abused; it could be that it’s your fault, too.  That’s okay–it’s just the way it is.  There’s a moderate pace to the music, and the guitars twist through the bass and drums, giving the music a spare, yet deep sound.  Sonic recovery in action.

5) Willie Dixon and various artists, Willie Dixon, The Chess Box

When it’s so bad that you don’t even want to think about moving, crawl to the cd player and load this in.  It’s a two-disk compilation honoring Willie Dixon’s songwriting for Chess Records, featuring the greatest blues artists of his generation.  The blues is well suited to accompany the misery of hangover.  One must suffer, persevere, and endure.  Dixon, Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, and others can take you from where you started the night before, relive the highs and lows of the evening, rationalize your actions, and commiserate in your pain.  It’s no coincidence that the last song of the collection is Koko Taylor’s “Insane Asylum.”  Her wails might have you thinking twice of doing it again.     

The Hangover’s Best Cover Songs of the Modern Era

14 Feb

A good cover song pays homage to the original while the band doing the ‘cover’ puts their own distinct stamp on it.  The tao of the band should tryst lustily with the soul of the original.  A great cover  manages that while taking the song to a different place.  The following are the five best since 1970.

1)  Sid Vicious, My Way  

While Sid might not have been the anti-Christ, he can certainly be termed the anti-Sinatra. He takes Frank’s signature tune and turns it into a snarling, spitting anthem that defines him just as it did ‘ol Blue Eyes.  That this song could also serve as Sid’s epitaph adds to its gravity, while at the same time making it somewhat pathetic.

2) Devo, (I can’t get no) Satisfaction

First, it is a fun, totally Devo-ed, herky-jerky version of the Stones’ classic.  It’ll make you laugh and groove at the same time, great for a mixed tape when you actually want everyone to stop and listen.  On the other hand, one can analyze it with an egg-headed approach.  The song itself describes one’s inability to connect with society and its expectations (Are your shirts white enough and are you smoking the right cigarettes?).  The disjointedness of Devo’s signature vocals and music indicate a relationship between the individual and society that has further deteriorated.  The overall oeurve of Devo’s version reveals the anomie suffered by modern man.  Either way, it’s a great party song.   

3)  Barrence Whitfield and Tom Russell, Cleaning Windows

Boston strongman Barrence Whitfield and Texas legend Tom Russell take a contemplative, steady Van Morrison song and rave it up into a workingman’s Friday night.  Roots rocking at full force, the back-and-forth vocals bring out the heart of the lyrics.  This is the version you’d want to hear playing in your local “down joint” after a hard week at anywhere but the office. 

4)  John Mellencamp, Jailhouse Rock

Mellancamp takes Elvis’s romp and slows it down, letting spare vocals emerge from behind a haunting, restrained backbeat.  This is what would play in your head at light’s out if the cell to your left contained Pam Smart and the one on the right held Maynard, Zed, and The Gimp.

5)  The Clash, Brand New Cadillac

The original version, done by Vince Taylor and the Playboys, is plaintive rythym and blues, in which the singer laments the loss of his girl, who laughingly drives away in a brand new Caddy.  One imagines the singer is down and out, both emotionally and economically.    The Clash don’t lament, however.  They turn the amps up to eleven and roar.  Their girl is certainly tougher and the Clash don’t take it so well.  The guitars and vocals are electric and reeling.  The song is imbued with an urgency that reveals a band at its full-throttle best with a song they could have written themselves.

Lifetime Achievement Award>>>The Blues Brothers, Soul Man

John Belushi is not a great vocalist, but he puts his heart into it here, backed by an excellent band.  This version doesn’t stray far from the original, but it does employ a bit more wattage.  What makes this version so great is what it accomplished:  A revitalization of the blues.  This song, the album it came from, and the subsequent movie brought a back-burnered style of music to white, suburban America.  And give people credit for knowing what to do when they heard it.  Blues music has never been more popular than it is now, and we’ve got the Blues Brothers to thank for it.

Songs that made the discussion:

X, “Soul Kitchen” (The Doors)

The Bangles, “Hazy Shade of Winter”  (Simon and Garfunkel)

The English Beat, “Tears of a Clown” (Smokey Robinson)

David Bowie, “Waterloo Sunset” (The Kinks)

The Bouncing Souls, “Better Things” (The Kinks)

Kd Lang, “Crying” (Roy Orbison)

Cheap Trick, “Ain’t that a Shame” (Fats Domino)

Van Halen, “Pretty Woman” (Roy Orbison)