The Sound, a self-described “world class rock” radio station in Los Angeles, has introduced a feature called “Your Turn”, in which listeners are invited to be a DJ for an hour. To apply, you visit their site (here) and submit your ten-song playlist. As soon as I heard of this new programming, I immediately went to work compiling mine.
In music, we often talk of “desert island records”: what are the ten records you would take to a desert island with you if you knew they would be the only ones you’d be listening to for who knows how long? The ten songs I picked weren’t so much desert island records as tracks that have stuck with me through the years, surviving changes in my musical tastes, life, location and more. If I made this list last year, it might have turned out differently, and if I make it again next year, it might also change. But here, with a little personal background, are the ten songs I submitted to “The Sound.” (By the way, if you don’t like self-indulgence, this blog post probably isn’t the one for you; maybe you should read www.nobodyhikesinla.com instead.)
1) “Cliffs of Dover” (Eric Johnson). In addition to having a great, uptempo groove, a memorable melody and great guitar work from Mr. Johnson, this song is a sentimental favorite of mine. It was the first song on which I ever played bass guitar in public, at my high school’s Battle of the Bands. (In case you were wondering, we did not win.)
2) “Long Tall Sally” (the Beatles). Obviously, the Beatles would have to show up somewhere on this list…but a cover!? Yeah, a cover. I wanted to pick a lesser-played song for my list, and I think that the Beatles are an under-rated cover band. Their version of “Twist and Shout”, of course, is legendary, but they did many other covers that arguably surpass the original. When the song is a generic 50s record (“Please Mr. Postman” or “Chains”), it’s not that hard – but topping Little Richard is another story. Big ups to Sir Paul and the boys!
3) “Gospel John” (Maynard Ferguson). Summer of 1990, Maine. A Jewish kid with a lot of body hair and coke-bottle glasses arrives at band camp from Brookline, MA, ready to unleash a torrent of guitar shred as only someone in his demographic can. He is stymied by a camp culture in which jazz and classical music reign; he clashes horns (pardon the pun) with a cabin mate who happens to be particularly snobby. Said cabin mate plays jazz records nonstop, and our Semitic friend is ready to smash up the entire collection with his bright red Yamaha electric guitar with its lightning bolt inlays. However, one song that he hears sticks in his mind; he enjoys the catchy melody and funky groove. Two years later, having become a jazz snob himself, he hears the same song again and learns that it is “Gospel John” by Maynard Ferguson.
#4) “Sweet Talking Woman” (Electric Light Orchestra). Guilty pleasures have always been a staple of mine. Say what you will about the ELO, but not singing along with this song on the radio is like buying “Playboy” only for the articles.
#5) “Limelight” (Rush). Perhaps our buddies from the Great White North might be described as a thinking man’s guilty pleasure. Even people who roll their eyes at the mention of this band’s name, and I know there are some of you doing that right now, can find inspiration in drummer Neil Peart’s triumph over personal tragedy. Rush even played a role in my relationship: when she didn’t hold my enjoyment of them against me, I had my first clue that I was on the right track.
#6) “Cavatina” (John Williams). “The Deer Hunter” is best known for its Russian Roulette scenes, but the sublime music in the soundtrack should not be overlooked. As played by the “other” John Williams (the noted classical guitar virtuoso, not to be confused with the film composer), Stanley Meyers’ beautiful theme helps drive home the film’s message.
#7) “Pressure” (Billy Joel). People often overlook the more rocking tracks in Billy Joel’s catalog, such as this one, off of his intense “Nylon Curtain” record. There’s more to the Piano Man than “She’s Always a Woman” and “Tell Her About It.”
#8) “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)” (Looking Glass). Back to the guilty pleasures – it doesn’t get much more guilty than this. But there’s something to be said for a song that does what it does well, and when it comes to pure ear candy, it’s hard to beat “Brandy.” You might laugh, you might roll your eyes, but you wouldn’t change a note.
#9) “Scatterbrain” (Jeff Beck). Heard on his great record “Blow By Blow”, this intense instrumental, with a weird groove and weirder melody, can be a great way to blow off steam. The George Martin-produced strings only add to the strangeness. The track’s name couldn’t be more perfect.
#10) “Josie” (Steely Dan). It might be melodramatic to say that Steely Dan inspired me to become a professional musician, but it’s not that far off. As a senior in high school, I was debating if I wanted to pursue music or writing. I had long been familiar with “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” and “Reelin’ in the Years”, but Steely Dan never really clicked for me until I heard this song. The rest is history.
So there you have it – my play list, as submitted to KSWD – The Sound. Wish me luck.