Sorry, We're Closed

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Just One Song, Part 4

Hello again, everybody!

It's time for part four of the Just One Song game. Choose, if you will, your one song by each of the following artists. And please feel free to write as much as you like about your choices!

Sometime soon I'll mix up the names of everyone who contributed a choice to parts three or four and award one hand-selected winner a special mix CD.

So...if you could only pick one song by each of the four following acts...what would that song be? Don't be shy, now! Step right up.

*The Cars

*The Jefferson Airplane/Starship thingy

*The Guess Who

*The Marvelettes

Larry has requested the Who once or twice...but I almost feel like it'd be too much to ask most people to take one Who song. What do y'all think? Should we do The Who in a later part of this game?

Looking forward to your picks! Thanks for playing and thanks, as always, for your support!

Here are my choices for each of the four.

The Cars. This was a surprisingly difficult decision.

Like most people of my profile and age, I liked the Cars a lot in the late 1970s. I thought they ran out of gas, ha ha, in the early 1980s. But the good stuff was very good: hooky, catchy pop, Roy Thomas Baker's slick production echoing Queen and Roxy Music. Add to that Ric Ocasek's 60s fixation, an odd mix of low and high tech, and the influence of oddballs like Suicide and the Velvets, and you have one of the odder bands ever to craft Top 40 material.

So let's go, or rather touch and go, down the magic memory lane of hits. There are several ones I could pick...but I'm gonna go with the incandescent "Shake It Up," the title track from their fourth album, which barely noses out "You're All I've Got Tonight," "Touch and Go," "I'm Not the One," "Drive," and "Good Times Roll."

*The Jefferson Airplane/Starship amalgamation. Despite plenty of good competition, it's got to be "3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds" off their second album, Surrealistic Pillow.

Side two opens with "3/5 of a Mile," a phrase that Marty Balin picked out of a newspaper sports section. The guitars are great, the drumming punchy from the opening fill, and the three-part harmony both plangent and transporting. Marty Balin's lead vocal, alienated and pissed off, brims with the simple need to be loved, while Grace Slick and Paul Kantner's harmonies were never better.

*The Guess Who. Their early period, which produced timeless radio fodder like "Undun," "No Sugar Tonight," "No Time," and "American Woman" as well as more obscure stuff like "When Friends Fall Out," gave away to a pretty fallow period from 1971-73, but then again during those years a lot of good bands were falling apart.

But late in 1973, the rollicking, joyful "Star Baby" reasserted the GW as a first-rate singles band. From the cold opening Burton Cummings' voice and piano are out front, and the sea of guitars, slide and otherwise, propel a witty lyric and winning melody into pop heaven. And as good as some of their other material was from this time ("Clap for the Wolfman," "Road Food,") nothing the band ever did before or after neared the pop perfection of "Star Baby." It only reached #39 nationally, but in Chicago it was in the top three. Which says something for the way this city an appreciate great rock and roll.

*The Marvelettes
. I've always had a soft spot for these bratty youngsters from Detroit, all the way from "Please Mr. Postman" and "Playboy" through the remarkably tough "Don't Mess With Bill" and "Too Many Fish in the Sea," which took the female empowerment message of "Playboy" and wedded it to an evergreen Holland-Dozier-Holland melody.

But my favorite of this group's has to be the Smokey Robinson composition "The Hunter Gets Captured By the Game" from 1967. It's almost an art song, with its morose harmonica melody. The backing is fairly standard Motown--reedy electric organ, aggressive drums, and a loping bass line--but the midtempo pace and the almost Asian melody are unusual for Berry Gordy's company, at least on a 45 rpm release.

Wanda Young handles the difficult lyrics with aplomb, stylishly conveying the unpredictability of love: you think you're in control, and you're the one on top...but the situation can change in an instant. If you haven't heard this one, here it is. Peace.