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News and Views for Authors. The primary voice of Booksquare is Kassia Krozser. She is a kind-hearted, gentle soul with a wealth of patience for the foibles of humani–wait, that’s not true at all. Kassia has never had an opinion she didn’t wish to express, nor has she ever been shy about telling the emperor that his clothes are, well, transparent. This is her way of expressing love, and she lavishes all of her adoration on the publishing industry because, like a child who needs firm, corrective guidance, publishers and writers need Booksquare.
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1. Certain Songs #444: Fishbone – “? (Modern Industry)”

Fishbone Modern Industry Album: Fishbone EP
Year: 1985

This song is really mostly a trifle, but the video had a shout-out to KFSR, so how could I not include it?

Musically, “? (Modern Industry)” doesn’t amount to much more than a weird hybrid of reggae and the new wave that was dominating the radio stations that this song name-checked.

And boy did it name-check a lot of radio stations:

WBRU, KABE, WFLY, Cool 92
KAX, KOKE, KRO
WAMX, yes, wow
KJZ ! The KUSF, check 94, KFRC

So while you could be excused for thinking that it was a cheap ploy to get some airplay on those radio stations — like when Billy Idol did a bunch of versions of “Hot in The City” where he yells the name of a different city in each version. “FRESNO!!”

But while it’s wacky on the surface — the guys in Fishbone intone the radio stations, both real and imaginary, in a plethora of voices ranging from stoned surfer dude to flat-out Mark Mothersbaugh — “? (Modern Industry)” has some points to make about the radio and the role it plays in peoples lives.

These are the voices of modern industry
This is the music that brings us together
These are the buttons that start the emotion
Continue the motion, the motion, the motion…
This is the music behind the machine
These are the voices of modern industry
These are the voices
These are the voices…

So “? (Modern Industry)” kind of gets to have it both ways: the music and voices signify as satire, the words seem sincere. Which is true?

Probably both.

Official Video for “? (Modern Industry)”

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2. Certain Songs #443: 54-40 – “Sound of Truth”

54-40 sound of truth Album: Set The Fire
Year: 1984

Most likely, if people have heard of 54-40, it’s because of an episode of the TV show Friends. Specifically, the one with Hootie and The Blowfish, which was actually called “The One With Five Steaks and an Eggplant.”

After the usual series of wacky hijinx and hilarious misunderstandings, the gang finds themselves at a Hootie and The Blowfish concert, where — in a very unconvincing “concert” scene — Hootie and The Blowfish aren’t playing one of their songs from Cracked Rear View, but rather a cover of the Canadian band 54-40’s “I Go Blind.”

Lord knows what kind of burgeoning corporate synergy led to that moment, but I remember watching that episode, and not knowing anything about Hootie and/or The Blowfish (outside of their tremendous popularity), was incredibly confused that they were playing a song that I actually knew.

In any event, I’d like to think that cover — which was freaking identical to the original version, BTW — sent a few folks towards discovering 54-40’s 1986 major-label debut, 54-40, which included a few good songs, like the aforementioned “I Go Blind” and the almost-a-Certain-Song “Take My Hand.”

None of which has very much to do with today’s entry, “Sound of Truth” from their 1984 indie release Set The Fire.

Starting of with a mournful trumpet, and almost instant falling into a slow, bass-driven two-note groove, “Sound of Truth” is one of those songs that trades upon repetition, while occasionally adding more instruments into the mix.

Meanwhile, vocalist Neil Osbourne (no relation), who sounds like the third vocalist in Translator if they had a third vocalist, is singing:

Some kind of order is what we’re after
The sound of truth doesn’t matter any more,
happy poor
There is a trick some kind of lure
No means of knowing sure anymore,
happy poor

At one point, a banjo comes in, playing the same figure over and over and over, against the slow beat, while more horns come in while the the entire band (or maybe just multi-tracked Osbournes) sing over and over:

The sound of truth is what we’re after
The sound of truth is what we’re after
The sound of truth is what we’re after
The sound of truth is what we’re after
The sound of truth is what we’re after
The sound of truth is what we’re after
The sound of truth is what we’re after
The sound of truth is what we’re after
The sound of truth is what we’re after
The sound of truth is what we’re after
The sound of truth is what we’re after
The sound of truth is what we’re after
The sound of truth is what we’re after
The sound of truth is what we’re after
The sound of truth is what we’re after
The sound of truth is what we’re after

While some folks might shout “We get it already! You’re after the sound of truth!” I’ve always found the repetition — musically and vocally — hypnotic and anthemic.

Also: for thirty years, I’ve been waiting for a deep voice to counterpoint “THE SOUND OF TRUTH” like a Rush song or something. So far, it hasn’t happened, except for in my head, every time.

“Sound of Truth”

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3. Certain Songs #442: Felt – “Primitive Painters”

Felt Primitive Album: Ignite The Seven Cannons
Year: 1985

Felt was another band that I shoulda loved more than I did. But despite all of the jangly guitars, psychedelic textures and amazing song titles like “Dismantled King is Off Of The Throne” and “All The People I Like Are Those That Are Dead”, I never quite got into them.

Except, of course, for their absolute classic masterpiece, “Primitive Painters.”

Produced by Cocteau Twins mastermind Robin Guthrie, “Primitive Painters” was a massive swirling wall of sound, featuring Martin Duffy’s keyboards and an absolutely lovely chorus where they other Cocteau Twin, Elisabeth Fraser, singing a gorgeous counterpoint on the chorus:

Oh you should see my trail of disgrace
(Yeahhh, ho you should see my trail of disgrace)
It’s enough to scare the whole human race
I said, oh you should see my trail of disgrace
(Yeahhh, ho you should see my trail of disgrace)
It’s enough to scare the whole human race, yeah, eminence

In the end, Guthrie just piles on the vocals, so that the entire track becomes a huge pile of vocals singing “whole human race” and “yeahhhhh,” every which way, occasionally punctuated rainfalls of Verlainesque guitar licks.

At six anthemic minutes long, “Primitive Painters” was probably too long to actually be a massive hit single, but it was also so powerful that it just missed becoming one.

“Primitive Painters”


Crappy-sounding official video for “Primitive Painters”

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4. Certain Songs #442: Felt – “Primitive Painters”

Felt Primitive Album: Ignite The Seven Cannons
Year: 1985

Felt was another band that I shoulda loved more than I did. But despite all of the jangly guitars, psychedelic textures and amazing song titles like “Dismantled King is Off Of The Throne” and “All The People I Like Are Those That Are Dead”, I never quite got into them.

Except, of course, for their absolute classic masterpiece, “Primitive Painters.”

Produced by Cocteau Twins mastermind Robin Guthrie, “Primitive Painters” was a massive swirling wall of sound, featuring Martin Duffy’s keyboards and an absolutely lovely chorus where they other Cocteau Twin, Elisabeth Fraser, singing a gorgeous counterpoint on the chorus:

Oh you should see my trail of disgrace
(Yeahhh, ho you should see my trail of disgrace)
It’s enough to scare the whole human race
I said, oh you should see my trail of disgrace
(Yeahhh, ho you should see my trail of disgrace)
It’s enough to scare the whole human race, yeah, eminence

In the end, Guthrie just piles on the vocals, so that the entire track becomes a huge pile of vocals singing “whole human race” and “yeahhhhh,” every which way, occasionally punctuated rainfalls of Verlainesque guitar licks.

At six anthemic minutes long, “Primitive Painters” was probably too long to actually be a massive hit single, but it was also so powerful that it just missed becoming one.

“Primitive Painters”


Crappy-sounding official video for “Primitive Painters”

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5. Certain Songs #441: The Feelies – “Decide”

feelies time for a witness Album: Time For a Witness
Year: 1991

It goes to just how fucking great of a year for music 1991 was that The Feelies could release an album equally as good as their previous three and barely crack my top 20 for that year.

But so it was with Time For a Witness, the last album The Feelies would record for nearly twenty years, and as good of a record they ever made.

What made Time For a Witness for me were the three songs smack dab in the middle: the nervous, jittery “Sooner or Later,” the long psychedelic ramble “Find a Way,” and the slinky mid-tempo “Decide.”

On “Decide,” The Feelies came up with a groove that was almost sexy, or at least as sexy as a band that specialized in drone was ever going to get, with Brenda Sauter’s bass peaking around every corner looking to smack Bill Million’s rhythm guitar on the ass, and then running away.

Meanwhile, Glen Mercer’s lead guitar was doing everything it could possibly do to get everybody’s attention from the get go, kicking out laser leads and noisy solos. It all comes together during the one and only chorus, when Mercer sings:

Decide
what side
You’re on
Decide
What side
You’re on
Decide
what side
You’re on
Decide
What side
You’re on
You’re on
You’re onnnnnnnnnnn
You’re onnnnnnnnnnn
You’re onnnnnnnnnnn

And naturally, the side I’m on is whichever side gives me more songs like “Decide”

“Decide”

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6. Certain Songs #440: The Feelies – “Away”

feelies only life Album: Only Life
Year: 1988

It’s kinda hard to write about The Feelies. I’ve loved these songs forever, but like — say, the Ramones or Best Coast — the things I love about the songs tend to stay the same for each song.

So, for example, “Away,” the penultimate song on Only Life, has been making me happy from the moment I heard it during the crushing summer of 1988, but I’m not really sure I can convey why.

I could point out that a lot of other Feelies songs, it kinda drifts in with slowly picked guitars, until the drums kick in and quicken the tempo to where the only way the guitars can keep up is to be strummed.

I can explain how I love the chorus, which features gorgeous group harmonies, but if I was going to do that, I’d just have to repeat the same word over and over again, like this:

Away (heyyyy)
Away (heyyyy)
Away (heyyyy)
Away (heyyyy)

And, of course, once again, I’d have to mention the instrumental break, which features Glenn Mercer and Bill Million dueling with their guitars like goddamned “Free Bird” or something, without ever once sounding like a conventional twin guitar solo.

I guess I could definitely mention the hyper-kinetic video — directed by Jonathan Demme — which features the band in front of a crowd of dancing folks at Maxwell’s in Hoboken.

And point out that if I was watching the Feelies at a club in 1988, damn straight I would have danced my ass off to this song, and probably every other song they played, and for just those couple of hours, everything would have been OK.

Official video for “Away” (Poor sound quality)

“Away” performed live in 1988

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7. Certain Songs #440: The Feelies – “Away”

feelies only life Album: Only Life
Year: 1988

It’s kinda hard to write about The Feelies. I’ve loved these songs forever, but like — say, the Ramones or Best Coast — the things I love about the songs tend to stay the same for each song.

So, for example, “Away,” the penultimate song on Only Life, has been making me happy from the moment I heard it during the crushing summer of 1988, but I’m not really sure I can convey why.

I could point out that a lot of other Feelies songs, it kinda drifts in with slowly picked guitars, until the drums kick in and quicken the tempo to where the only way the guitars can keep up is to be strummed.

I can explain how I love the chorus, which features gorgeous group harmonies, but if I was going to do that, I’d just have to repeat the same word over and over again, like this:

Away (heyyyy)
Away (heyyyy)
Away (heyyyy)
Away (heyyyy)

And, of course, once again, I’d have to mention the instrumental break, which features Glenn Mercer and Bill Million dueling with their guitars like goddamned “Free Bird” or something, without ever once sounding like a conventional twin guitar solo.

I guess I could definitely mention the hyper-kinetic video — directed by Jonathan Demme — which features the band in front of a crowd of dancing folks at Maxwell’s in Hoboken.

And point out that if I was watching the Feelies at a club in 1988, damn straight I would have danced my ass off to this song, and probably every other song they played, and for just those couple of hours, everything would have been OK.

Official video for “Away” (Poor sound quality)

“Away” performed live in 1988

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8. Certain Songs #439: The Feelies – “It’s Only Life”

feelies only life Album: Only Life
Year: 1988

Man, this song. Coming out just two years after The Good Earth, The Feelies 1988 album — and major-label debut! — Only Life added just a skosh more noise back into the mix, as signified by their cover of “What Goes On,” which had been waiting to happen for a decade.

As awesome as that was — and when we saw The Feelies open for Lou Reed at the Universal Amphitheater a year later, Uncle Lou came out and played on their cover — the song that spoke to my mood in the dying weeks of the terrible summer of 1988 was the title track, “It’s Only Life”

Over a couple of chords that fade in from the center of the universe and are ringing from here to eternity and with bassist Brenda Sauter holding down the melodic fort, Glenn Mercer sings words that came straight from my soul:

What does it mean?
What can you do about it?
What can you say?
You don’t even know about it
Nobody talks
Nobody listens
Well look around
Yeah look out your window
They’re having a ball
Having a party
Well come inside
You can do what you like
Well it’s a nightmare
It’s all negative
Nothing matters
And what if it did?
You could lock your doors
Close all your windows and
Hide away
Hide away
Hide away
Hide away

After that comes an gorgeous, empathetic solo that sounds like a lost Richard Lloyd solo from Marquee Moon, lasting just long enough to break up the verses even as you marvel at ever single note.

And then Mercer just repeats that first verse — manifesto, really — over again, only the second time, after a couple of “hide aways” he instead reminds us of one simple fact:

It’s only life
It’s only life
Only life
Only life
Only life
Only life
Only life

And as Mercer’s voice fades back down into the center of the universe and the song fades with it, a song that seemed to be about those days where you just want to crawl inside of yourself because your sadness feels impossible and never-ending and to be around those people who aren’t feeling what you feel would just be too fucking much reveals itself as a song far deeper.

It reveals itself as a song that reminds you that maybe you need to not take everything so seriously, that maybe wallowing isn’t the answer. Yeah it’s only life, but it’s also the only life you have.

And for me, at that time, that was exactly the message I think I needed to hear: and I know that these were the guitars I needed to hear as well.

“It’s Only Life”

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9. Certain Songs #438: The Feelies – “Slipping (Into Something)”

feelies hight road Album: The Good Earth
Year: 1986

After Crazy Rhythms, The Feelies pretty much dropped off of the face of the planet. Their bassist left, and drummer Anton Fier left and eventually formed The Golden Palominos.

Meanwhile, Glen Mercer and Bill Million never stopped playing, and eventually picked up an new bassist, Brenda Sauter, and not one, but two percussionists: Stan Demenski & Dave Weckerman. Weirdly enough, the resultant album, 1986’s The Good Earth, featured less weird percussion than Crazy Rhythms, as Weckerman provided color as opposed to contrast.

Produced by Peter Buck, The Good Earth felt as pastoral as the cover — for the most part, Mercer and Million found a groove pretty early on in every song and just rode it throughout. For the most parts, they strummed their electric and acoustic guitars together and each song had just enough melodic difference to distinguish from the others.

“Slipping (Into Something)” is different. It starts slow and quiet, almost imperceptibly, and then builds measure by measure — Mercer and Million’s guitars playing off of each other — until it finds a groove.

But that groove lasts just long enough for Mercer to sing a verse, and then it all breaks down, and starts up again, back into the groove, and then breaks down again.

But this time, when it starts back up, it’s different: no words, and the groove just gets faster and faster and faster and faster, and now the guitars are both, er, shredding and the beat gets faster and faster and faster some more and the guitars get noiser and noiser, and eventually the whole thing just collapses and the song ends.

It also around this time that the Feelies appeared in Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild, — still one of the more schizophrenic films ever made — playing the band at Melanie Griffith’s high school reunion, which was one of the reasons I went and saw the film in the first place.

“Slipping (Into Something)” Performed Live in Athens, GA 1987

The Feelies performing David Bowie’s “Fame” in SOMETHING WILD

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10. Certain Songs #437: The Feelies – “Crazy Rhythms”

feelies crazy Album: Crazy Rhythms
Year: 1980

On their debut album, 1980’s Crazy Rhythms, The Feelies had it both ways: they looked like total nerds, what their preppy shirts, normal haircuts and not one but two guys wearing glasses.

But their music was weird and unpredictable: they often started with a couple of nicely strummed guitars, and usually ended up with a big ole rave-up with offbeat percussion instruments coloring the song throughout.

So a song like album-closer and title track “Crazy Rhythms” is barely a song at all, but more of an excuse to bounce guitars off of each other, which is why Glenn Mercer just rushes through the verses so they could get to the fun part — the rave-up!

Said rave-up starts with drummer Anton Fier’s (the future Golden Palomino, not the future Letterman drummer) just-crazy-enough drums marching in lockstep with bassist Keith DeNunzio, who holds down the fort while Fier just slightly messes with the beat.

Eventually Mercer and Bill Million come in with their guitars, picking and strumming against that beat and against each other. Sometimes one drops out, or the other picks it up and plays something new against the beat.

There are no guitar solos here — just two rhythm guitars that strum and churn and storm for a while. And strum and churn some more. And eventually they decide that it’s time to stop and let Mercer rush through the verses again one last time.

“Crazy Rhythms”

“Crazy Rhythms” live at CBGBs, 1978

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11. Certain Songs #436: Father John Misty – “I’m Writing a Novel”

father john misty Album: Fear Fun
Year: 2012

Because everything he does feels like it’s coated in five layers of irony and then dipped into a vat of insincerity, it’s hard for me to get a read on Father John Misty, who has now released two albums of otherwise relatively conventional Laurel Canyon rock.

But anyone who can cover the Ryan Adams cover of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Slate” with a drop-dead Lou Reed impersonation is going get extra attention from me.

Luckily, it helps that he can an incredibly funny and observant lyricist, as on “I’m Writing a Novel,’ which starts with:

I ran down the road, pants down to my knees
Screaming ‘please come help me,
That Canadian shaman gave a little too much to me!’
And I’m writing a novel because it’s never been done before

It’s that last line that kills me: he nails the arrogance of every single writer ever — including your humble servant — who rationalizes their own need to write by pretending they have something new and different to say.

As the song moves on, it falls into a groove that could have come directly from Willy and The Poor Boys, while Misty piles on absurdity after absurdity.

I rode to Malibu on a dune buggy with Neil
He said ‘you’re gonna have to drown me down on the beach
If you ever want to write the real’
And I said ‘I’m sorry, young man what is your name again?’

Of course, I’ve lived in California my whole life, so I have no idea how much this type of stuff plays anywhere else — it’s incredibly L.A. heavy, and after nearly 15 years of living in L.A., I’ve come to love songs that make fun of it probably a bit to much.

So it’s impossible for me to resist a song that sounds like it coulda come out in 1970, but ends with an ace couplet like:

I’ll never leave the canyon ’cause I’m surrounded on all sides
By people writing novels and living on amusement rides

Official Video for “I’m Writing a Novel”

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12. Certain Songs #435: Fatboy Slim – “The Rockafeller Skank”

fatboy slim Album: You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby
Year: 1998

Heh. One thing is for sure: if you have a problem with repetition, you probably can’t stand “The Rockafeller Skank,” which repeats its only — sampled, natch, cos no actual human could sing it — verse dozens, hundreds, millions of times.

Check its Google Play lyrics page to see what I mean.

That repetition meant that half of the people who loved “The Rockafeller Skank” as a novelty song; the other half loved it as a disruptive piece of art and the third half loved it as both!

That third half is probably where I land: “The Rockafeller Skank” is an amazing production, with something completely amazing and new coming around every single corner while also remaining exactly the same throughout the entire song.

At the same time, it was fun and weird to sing along with that verse:

Right about now, the funk soul brother
Check it out now, the funk soul brother

Also adding to both the genius and novelty arguments: the fact that the erstwhile Normal Cook called the song “The Rockafeller Skank” instead of “Funk Soul Brother” You know that right now — almost 20 years later — there are people right about now who have this song stuck in their head without knowing what it’s really called.

And if you’re one of the people who love this song, then you also need to check out the ultra-rare “The Satisfaction Skank,” which is exactly what you’d expect: the “Funk soul brother” and “Rockafeller” samples over a breakdown of The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” which I think was performed once on BBC Radio One and will be bootlegged forever.

Official video for “The Rockafeller Skank”

“The Satisfaction Skank”

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13. Certain Songs #434: Faces – “Ooh La La”

faces-ooh_la_la(4) Album: Ooh La La
Year: 1973

It must say something about Faces that their greatest song wasn’t just the last song on their last studio album, but also wasn’t even sung by Rod Stewart or Ronnie Lane, but rather Ronnie Wood.

Apparently both Rod Stewart and Ronnie Lane tried singing lead, but their producer — the incomparable Glyn Johns — suggested Ronnie Wood give it a try, and that’s the take they went with.

And quite naturally, all three men laid claim to the song as they got older and it kept having more and more resonance. “Ooh La La” is like that: when you’re young, you feel sorry for the granddad in the song, but you don’t particularly relate.

And in fact, I’ll probably never relate to the verses: they’ll always read too “women are evil” for me when I’ve always had the opposite experience with women. But while the grand-dad in the song is relating his specific experience, “Ooh La La” has a bigger lesson to give, I think.

Poor young grandson, there’s nothing I can say
You’ll have to learn, just like me
And that’s the hardest way
Ooh la la, ooh la la la yeh

Just because it’s a cliche doesn’t mean it ain’t true: over the years life kicks you in the ass and in the balls and repeatedly in the face, and you make every kind of mistake, and suddenly the chorus of “Ooh La La” can cause you to burst into tears:

I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was younger
I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was stronger

And that’s where the genius of having Ron Wood singing pays full fruit: it’s his slightly damaged, but utterly empathetic vocal that gives the song an extra “oomph” of emotion. It’s as direct as the words.

Cazart! I haven’t even discussed the music of “Ooh La La,” cos I’ve been so fixated as outing myself as a middle-aged man who totally gets it, but the music is absolutely key to the greatness of “Ooh La La” as a near-perfect folk-rock song.

Based upon an circular acoustic guitar riff that also provides the melody in the chorus, my favorite musical part of “Ooh La La” is Ian McLagan’s piano solo, which comes in just when you’re expecting the second chorus.

At first, Mac is all barrelhouse and arrogance, playing a jumble of notes, fighting against the slow steady pulse of the song. But over time, it starts smoothing out, and eventually, he’s playing the melody of the chorus that he so rudely interrupted.

It’s a metaphor for the theme of the song!

“Ooh La La”

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14. Certain Songs #434: Faces – “Ooh La La”

faces-ooh_la_la(4) Album: Ooh La La
Year: 1973

It must say something about Faces that their greatest song wasn’t just the last song on their last studio album, but also wasn’t even sung by Rod Stewart or Ronnie Lane, but rather Ronnie Wood.

Apparently both Rod Stewart and Ronnie Lane tried singing lead, but their producer — the incomparable Glyn Johns — suggested Ronnie Wood give it a try, and that’s the take they went with.

And quite naturally, all three men laid claim to the song as they got older and it kept having more and more resonance. “Ooh La La” is like that: when you’re young, you feel sorry for the granddad in the song, but you don’t particularly relate.

And in fact, I’ll probably never relate to the verses: they’ll always read too “women are evil” for me when I’ve always had the opposite experience with women. But while the grand-dad in the song is relating his specific experience, “Ooh La La” has a bigger lesson to give, I think.

Poor young grandson, there’s nothing I can say
You’ll have to learn, just like me
And that’s the hardest way
Ooh la la, ooh la la la yeh

Just because it’s a cliche doesn’t mean it ain’t true: over the years life kicks you in the ass and in the balls and repeatedly in the face, and you make every kind of mistake, and suddenly the chorus of “Ooh La La” can cause you to burst into tears:

I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was younger
I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was stronger

And that’s where the genius of having Ron Wood singing pays full fruit: it’s his slightly damaged, but utterly empathetic vocal that gives the song an extra “oomph” of emotion. It’s as direct as the words.

Cazart! I haven’t even discussed the music of “Ooh La La,” cos I’ve been so fixated as outing myself as a middle-aged man who totally gets it, but the music is absolutely key to the greatness of “Ooh La La” as a near-perfect folk-rock song.

Based upon an circular acoustic guitar riff that also provides the melody in the chorus, my favorite musical part of “Ooh La La” is Ian McLagan’s piano solo, which comes in just when you’re expecting the second chorus.

At first, Mac is all barrelhouse and arrogance, playing a jumble of notes, fighting against the slow steady pulse of the song. But over time, it starts smoothing out, and eventually, he’s playing the melody of the chorus that he so rudely interrupted.

It’s a metaphor for the theme of the song!

“Ooh La La”

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15. Certain Songs #433: Faces – “Debris”

faces nod is as good Album: A Nod’s As Good As a Wink… to a Blind Horse
Year: 1971

I’ve been trying to figure out for decades why I don’t unreservedly love the Faces. I mean, there isn’t anything in their sound or style that isn’t completely up my alley.

And their influence on things that I do love unreservedly — like The Replacements — is well-documented.

So it must be as simple as the fact that Rod Stewart kept all of his best songs for his solo albums, and — with a couple of exceptions — Ronnie Lane was never his equal as a songwriter.

“Debris,” of course, is one of those exceptions. It opens with Ron Wood quietly soloing over a bed of acoustic guitars and Ian McLagan’s electric piano as Lane sings:

I left you on the debris
At the Sunday morning market
You were sorting through the odds and ends.
You was looking for a bargain

“Debris” is one of those songs that just kinda floats like a faraway cloud, never quite coming into focus, but always inviting you to come closer and check it out. At some point Rod Stewart pops in to sing some harmony vocals, like he just happened to be hanging around the studio while they recorded the song and Ronnie Lane waved him on over to sing for a bit.

Meanwhile Ron Wood’s been playing leads throughout the entire song, but they never even come close to taking the song over, because it would be rude. So even his flashy bit that introduces his solo in the middle of the song feels natural and unforced.

I get that this is what people love about Faces: the unstructured nature of their best songs, and how they’re all contributing while noone is really leading. And that approach applied to a song as gorgeous as “Debris” always makes me wonder what else I’m missing.

Fan-made video for “Debris”

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16. Certain Songs #432: The Everly Brothers – “Wake Up Little Susie”

everly wake up
Album: The Everly Brothers
1957

Not so different than “Bye Bye Love” in a lot of respects — written by Felice and Bordeaux Bryant; opening with a super cool acoustic riff — “Wake Up Little Susie” zips right past those surface similarities almost instantly.

The timeless tale of a couple of high school students who fell asleep during a drive-in movie and now are in deep shit because of it, “Wake Up Little Susie” just drips with fear and worry from the very start.

We’ve both been sound asleep
Wake up little Susie and weep
The movie’s over, it’s four o’clock
And we’re in trouble deep

What I love about “Wake Up Little Susie,” — I mean besides the utterly ace harmonies and equally ace acoustic guitar that underpins most of it — is their realization of just how fucked they are. Even if they didn’t.

Well, what are we gonna tell your Mama
What are we gonna tell your Pa?
What are we gonna tell our friends
When they say, “Ooh la la!”

That chorus features some great quick guitar leads after the first couple of lines and a full stop to make “Ooh la la!” as menacing as it possibly could be. Hell, for Susie, that might even be worse than her parents. Especially since this isn’t the first time it’s happened.

“Wake Up Little Susie”

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17. Certain Songs #432: The Everly Brothers – “Wake Up Little Susie”

everly wake up
Album: The Everly Brothers
1957

Not so different than “Bye Bye Love” in a lot of respects — written by Felice and Bordeaux Bryant; opening with a super cool acoustic riff — “Wake Up Little Susie” zips right past those surface similarities almost instantly.

The timeless tale of a couple of high school students who fell asleep during a drive-in movie and now are in deep shit because of it, “Wake Up Little Susie” just drips with fear and worry from the very start.

We’ve both been sound asleep
Wake up little Susie and weep
The movie’s over, it’s four o’clock
And we’re in trouble deep

What I love about “Wake Up Little Susie,” — I mean besides the utterly ace harmonies and equally ace acoustic guitar that underpins most of it — is their realization of just how fucked they are. Even if they didn’t.

Well, what are we gonna tell your Mama
What are we gonna tell your Pa?
What are we gonna tell our friends
When they say, “Ooh la la!”

That chorus features some great quick guitar leads after the first couple of lines and a full stop to make “Ooh la la!” as menacing as it possibly could be. Hell, for Susie, that might even be worse than her parents. Especially since this isn’t the first time it’s happened.

“Wake Up Little Susie”

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18. Certain Songs #431: The Everly Brothers – “Bye Bye Love”

TheEverlyBrothersThe Album: The Everly Brothers
Year: 1957

What a cool opening this song has: that acoustic guitar, played almost indifferently for a couple of measures, until Phil & Don Everly lead with their strength: the rough beauty of their voices singing in harmony.

The key, of course, is not just that their voices sound great together, but that they also just slightly rub each other wrong, like each one is double-dog-daring the other to slide his voice just wrong enough to fuck the whole thing up.

The other cool thing about “Bye Bye Love:” it starts with the chorus. Which is the right thing to do in this case.

Bye bye love
Bye bye happiness, hello loneliness
I think I’m-a gonna cry-y
Bye bye love,
Bye bye sweet caress, hello emptiness
I feel like I could di-ie
Bye bye my love goodby-eye

With Chet Akins adding licks after the title phrase, that chorus is total and utter justification for the entire song. The verses are almost an afterthought, just a way of marking time until that timeless chorus reappears.

“Bye Bye Love”

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19. Certain Songs #425: The English Beat – “Best Friend”

beat best friend Album: I Just Can’t Stop It
Year: 1980

If I Just Can’t Stop It was the living embodiment of Pete Townshend’s maxim that “Rock ‘n’ Roll won’t eliminate your problems, but it will sort of let you dance all over them,” then “Best Friend” just might be the epitome of that embodiment.

With Andy Cox’s 12-string Rickenbacker playing high-and-seek with Dave Wakeling’s six-string and Saxa providing commentary throughout, “Best Friend” soars like the greatest power pop songs of the era.

Naturally, the soaring music is contrasted with Dave Wakeling’s scathing lyrics:

I just found out the name of your best friend,
You been talkin’ about yourself again,
And no one seems to share your views.
Why doesn’t everybody listen to you kid?
How come you never really seem to get through, is it you?
Talk about yourself again, you.
Talk about yourself,
Always you, you, you.
Talk about yourself again.

But because every single one of those verses are filled with Ranking Roger’s harmony vocals, swooping in at the end of nearly line, and followed by those endlessly evocative guitars playing circles around each other with only Saxa firmly keeping them within the song’s gravitational pull, you — once again — don’t really care how mean the words are.

Or maybe you do. “Best Friend” one of those songs you can imagine dancing to with a soon-to-be-ex, both of you mouthing “Always you you you” at each other, both caring tremendously and not giving a rats ass at the exact moment because you both know it’s over, but it’s still so much fun to dance together.

In the end, when Dave & Roger just chant “I just found out the name of your best friend” until the fade, you can feel the disappointment in their voices, even as you’re wishing that the the song would go on forever.

Official video for “Best Friend”

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20. Certain Songs #426: The English Beat – “Doors of Your Heart”

Beat - Wha'ppen Album: Wha’ppen?
Year: 1981

So as often happens when you follow an energetic, epochal debut album with a slower, more experimental record, the people who loved that debut album tend to dismiss the follow-up. And so it went with me and The Beat’s second album, 1981’s Wha’ppen?

Which — I should point out — I bought on Christmas Day, 1982 (at Tower Records, natch!) a whole two months after I bought I Just Can’t Stop It. But it was a pretty big two months, as KFSR had finally gone on the air, and I’d also started the first real relationship of my adult life, so perhaps I wasn’t prepared to give Wha’appen? the attention it deserved.

So I liked side one, didn’t care for side two, and am guessing that the entire record needs me to try it out again 30+ years later.

That said, I instantly loved the opening track, the etherial reggae love song “Doors of Your Heart.”

Every story has to be about something I suppose
This one says
I lose my head
As the feeling starts to grow you know?

Dave Wakeling sounds cautiously optimistic for once, as he navigates a straight love song for once.

With the rest of the band “ooohing” behind the verses and joining in on the “Bom bom / Bom bom” at the end of the chorus, “Doors of Your Heart felt very much like the “unity rocker” Ranking Roger declared it as at the beginning of his very long toasting section in the middle.

Official (muddy-sounding) video for “Doors of Your Heart”


“Doors of Your Heart” performed live at the US Festival, 1982

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21. Certain Songs #428: The English Beat – “Save it For Later”

Beat Save it For Later Album: Special Beat Service
Year: 1982

Saving the best Beat song for last. And not just the best Beat song, but one of the very very very greatest songs of the 1980s, and a song that feels like a miracle every single time it comes on.

It’s so simple. It’s so complex. It’s so straightforward. It’s so transcendent. It’s pretty much everything a great pop song should be wrapped up into a single package. Riffs, harmonies, hooks, beats, words. It’s all there.

The beautiful thing about “Save it For Later” is that there are surprises around every single corner. The little horn riffs that come out of nowhere. The extra percussion that underscores the foresquare beat. Ranking Roger’s harmony vocals. The repetition of “now now now now now!”

And the chorus, which isn’t angry or profound or political or anything but words that heard once, you’ll be singing for the rest of your life:

Sooner or later
Your legs give way, you hit the ground
Save it for later
Don’t run away and let me down

Sooner or later
You’ll hit the deck you’ll get found out
Save it for later
Don’t runaway and let me down
You let me down

Speaking of that chorus: the swell of strings that accompany the second chorus are the sound of a perfect sunrise, where the world is all colors at once and everything seems possible for just that tiny moment. And the second, harmonized “Save it for later” in every chorus seems to float over everything, lighter than even the sun.

And of course, during the coda while Dave Wakeling is so moved that he’s beyond words, here comes Ranking Roger, so quietly at first, you really have to listen for it, and I’m not even sure they actually exist, but I hear them.

Runaway
Runaway
Runaway
Runaway

Then, louder, but never so loud it overshadows the music, Wakeling joins in:

Runaway
Runaway
Runaway
Runaway
Runaway
Runaway
Runaway
Runaway
And let me down

Because those harmonized “runaways” feel like they exist in between universes, every time you hear them, you wonder if they actually truly existed. You have to go back and listen to the song again, just to verify what you actually heard.

If anybody has ever written a better song than “Save It For Later,” I haven’t heard it.

Also love the video, where the power of “Save it For Later” compels a club full of snooty bookworms to dance! Because how could you watch the impeccably-dressed Ranking Roger dancing around with his tambourine and not wanna join in?

Official Video for “Save It For Later”


“Save It For Later” performed live at the US Festival, 1982

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22. Certain Songs #427: The English Beat – “I Confess”

beat special beat service Album: Special Beat Service
Year: 1983

And a couple of months after I bought Wha’appen, I completed my purchases of The Beat’s three initial albums with Special Beat Service, which found them continuing to expand their music outwards, mixing songs from every conceivable genre with skill and glee.

That Special Beat Service would pull no punches was defined by the opening salvo, the incandescent soul burner, “I Confess.”

Underpinned by an insistent piano and a whole drum circle’s worth of percussion, “I Confess” opens with Dave Wakeling baring his soul about a recently-climaxed love triangle:

Just out of spite,
I confess I’ve ruined three lives
Now don’t sleep so tight
Because I didn’t care till I found out
That one of them was mine

Wakeling’s singing here is gorgeous, especially when he goes into the falsetto bits like as he sings “I confess that I don’t really care.”

So yeah, the music is slick and sophisticated, featuring swelling strings and even a long trumpet solo, not to mention the aforementioned falsetto, but it all works, and sticks with the finest Beat tradition of combining irresistible music with dark dark words.

Official video for “I Confess”

“I Confess” performed live at the US Festival, 1982

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23. Certain Songs #427: The English Beat – “I Confess”

beat special beat service Album: Special Beat Service
Year: 1983

And a couple of months after I bought Wha’appen, I completed my purchases of The Beat’s three initial albums with Special Beat Service, which found them continuing to expand their music outwards, mixing songs from every conceivable genre with skill and glee.

That Special Beat Service would pull no punches was defined by the opening salvo, the incandescent soul burner, “I Confess.”

Underpinned by an insistent piano and a whole drum circle’s worth of percussion, “I Confess” opens with Dave Wakeling baring his soul about a recently-climaxed love triangle:

Just out of spite,
I confess I’ve ruined three lives
Now don’t sleep so tight
Because I didn’t care till I found out
That one of them was mine

Wakeling’s singing here is gorgeous, especially when he goes into the falsetto bits like as he sings “I confess that I don’t really care.”

So yeah, the music is slick and sophisticated, featuring swelling strings and even a long trumpet solo, not to mention the aforementioned falsetto, but it all works, and sticks with the finest Beat tradition of combining irresistible music with dark dark words.

Official video for “I Confess”

“I Confess” performed live at the US Festival, 1982

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24. Certain Songs #429: Eurythmics – “Would I Lie To You?”

Eurythmics_WILTY Album: Be Yourself Tonight
Year: 1985

I thought about writing about “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” but even after all these years that song still seems unknowable by mere human beings while the glam-soul-trash aesthetic of “Would I Lie To You?” is right up my alley.

And as one of the few people in the U.S. who really enjoyed Dave Stewart’s and Annie Lennox’s pre-fame band, The Tourists — I’ll forever swear by 1980’s Luminous Basement — I wasn’t surprised that once they figured out how to get her voice and look on top of the weird-but-accessible soundscapes that seemed to come naturally to Stewart, they’d become a world-wide sensation.

And while I didn’t like all of the singles they issued during their run, the ones I liked, I really really liked, for example 1985’s boot-stomper “Would I Lie To You?,” which was a well-deserved top 5 single here in the U.S.

Sure, the 80s synth-horns seemed cheesy even then, and the lyrics are basically the title repeated over and over and over again, but none of that matters, because Annie Lennox.

Right? Lennox just freaking belts it out while Dave Stewart slides a rock guitar riff over a classic soul beat, a plethora of backing vocals, big 80s drums, echoes screams and everything else under the sun.

It’s overstuffed as hell, but it’s also fun as hell, and leaves absolutely no doubt that the answer to the title question is a resounding “yes!”

Official video for “Would I Lie to You?”

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25. Certain Songs #430: Everclear – “Now That It’s Over”

Everclear songs from an american movie Album: Songs From an American Movie Vol 1
Year: 2000

While they had some decent radio songs and hit singles in the late 1990s (which I’m not sure have aged all that well), Everclear never made an album I liked start to finish outside of 2000’s Songs From an American Movie, Vol. 1.

Maybe because it was the first album to really expand from the power-trio format, so the added instrumentation finally obscured the fact that Art Alexakis’ songs tended to sound alike: circular riffs that usually didn’t threaten to break out the the circle they created.

That said, there was some pleasure to be had in the circles themselves, like in the case of “Now That It’s Over,” which plies its circular riff over a big John Bonham beat, billowing pyschedelic keyboards, so that the circle has basically become a hurricane.

And the hurricane is all of the things that Art Alexakis is feeling.

Nightmares just don’t scare me now
Baby without you
Oh, I wish that I could find the words to tell
You to politely go fuck yourself
Yeah, now that it’s over

With every single line echoing into the malestrom as he sings it, “Now That It’s Over” definitely captures that part where sadness turns into anger, and he’s clearly already halfway over to the Dark Side.

“Now That It’s Over”

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