Last year, the Popdose staffers compiled their favorite songs of all time. We were asked to submit 100 songs that we absolutely love, and I was looking over my list the other day and realized that 1.) Many of the songs are pretty awesome, and 2.) What I consider great songs qualifies me for membership in “Club Un-Hip.” Nevertheless, I won’t apologize for loving a song simply because it’s popular. I know when it comes to some music critics writing about their favorite songs, the more fringe they are in taste seems to increases their your street cred. But I’m way to old to care about that stuff, so rather than trying to convince you why you need to buy albums by Animal Collective, or how you just have to have the latest from the xx, I’ll just lay my six cards on the table and let you enjoy (or throw rotten fruit) at this week’s mix.
“Peggy Sue,” Buddy Holly (Download)
Why is “Peggy Sue” such a favorite of mine? Well, it’s a bit of story, so get ready. Back in the early ’80s I used to do a lot of mobile DJ work. It was a rather lucrative way to make money while going to college, and one of the best clients at the time were yuppies. Eager to hear the songs of their youth, they would routinely hire me to only play songs from the ’50s and ’60s. Yeah, my copy of The Big Chill soundtrack was on high rotation, but knowing that I had to familiarize myself with songs from the ’50s, my brother and I purchased the Oldies But Goodies series that had tons of popular and deeper tracks (which could also be known as the “Ass End of the ’50s”) that we would play at our gigs. Being a young naive Turk at the time, I was so emotionally divorced from the music of the ’50s that it all sounded the same to me — except when it came to “Peggy Sue.” There was something about that rolling drum beat that stood out in a way wasn’t like any other oldies song I was spinning back then.
“The Weight,” the Band (Download)
For those who are die hard music fans, there’s a point during your formative years when you stretch out beyond your comfort zone to experience music that can draw you in with interesting cover art. Back in the day when I spent at least three days a week perusing the stacks at either Tower Record or Rasputin Records, I was such a regular that the clerks got to know me fairly well. One day I was asking for album recommendations, and an older clerks suggested I listen to artists who were iconic in their hey day (i.e., Dylan). But another clerk quickly grabbed a copy of Music from Big Pink and said, “You really need to put this album in your collection.” I bought it without knowing anything about the Band (except that the cover art looked interesting). But when I got home, and dropped the needle on the record, I gotta say that I really didn’t fall in love with the album. However, when “The Weight” came on, it was one of those songs that just screamed “Instant classic” to my young ears.
“I Need You,” Paul Carrack (Download)
Back in 1982, I had the 45 of this song, and for some reason, Epic records released the single as an “A side only” recording. It was the strangest thing. When you flipped over the record to the B side, it was a just a smooth, ungrooved bit of vinyl. And if you dropped the record needle on it, the tone arm would just slide all over the pressed black ice until it skipped off the platter altogether. I think it was a way to squeeze more money out of the record buying public, but it didn’t matter because the single “I Need You” was, to me, pure gold. The song didn’t do too badly in the U.S. charting in the Top 40 at #37, but certainly had legs on the AC and AOR charts (peaking at #20 and #22 respectively). I know that “Don’t Shed a Tear” did much better for Carrack in terms of chart position a few years later, but c’mon, with that Motown flavor going on in the song, “I Need You” is just solid through and through.
“All of My Heart,” ABC (Download)
ABC was really fortunate that MTV launched around the time The Lexicon of Love was released (along with music videos for three of the songs.) While “The Look of Love” and “Poison Arrow” were on high rotation back then, MTV would periodically play the video for “All of My Heart” and I would only catch the last couple of minutes or so of the video (oddly enough, it’s the scene where the plug gets yanked out of the wall, and for some reason, blood starts oozing out of the outlet). Anyway, when I finally purchased the album, I used to play “All of My Heart” quite often, and it eventually ended up on a mix tape I made for my girlfriend (now my wife). I know the lyrics are quite forlorn, so it’s not really one of those songs that fits well on a mix tape to a beloved. But maybe it’s Martin Fry’s singing of the song’s title that does it for me. Oh, and if you haven’t seen the video in a long time (or at all) here ’tis!
“The Mayor of Simpleton,” XTC (Download)
What’s not to like about “The Mayor of Simpleton?” Nothing really. It’s a great pop song that has a rather upbeat Andy Partridge singing about a guy who’s clearly over the moon for someone (maybe Erica Wexler?) Clearly, his life has changed since then (see, “Your Dictionary” and his break up with his long time collaborator, Colin Moulding), but back in 1989 Andy was, at times, in a rather cheerful mood on Oranges and Lemons.
“Human Behaviour,” Bjork (Download)
In a way, we’ve come full circle. Like “Peggy Sue,” “Human Behaviour” has a unique quality that’s brought to the fore with the emphasis on the rolling snare drum and a rather skimpy chorus that leaves all the cool vocal hooks to be revealed in the verses. After her stint with the Sugarcubes, Bjork really wanted to distinguish herself from her former group, and certainly did that when she teamed up with Massive Attack producer, Nellee Hooper. The electronica blurps and boinks that punctuate cool bass line makes for an unconventional but really brilliant pop song.