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.


Blogger Derek See said...

The Cars- I never was a fan of. I don't dislike them, they just always seem kinda bland. I would pick "Drive" though, as its' quite a poignant song.

*The Jefferson Airplane/Starship thingy- It's No Secret

*The Guess Who- Shakin' All Over

*The Marvelettes- I'll Keep Holdin' On

10:36 PM, February 03, 2009

Blogger Bob Purse said...

Well, for three of these groups, this was a no-brainer. I'm not a big fan of any of them, I guess, and in those cases, one song stands out way above the rest of the catalog.

The Cars: My Best Friend's Girl. Probably the only song of theirs I'd be likely to put on a mix tape. But that's a back-handed compliment - this is a fantastic song, all sorts of '60's guitar sounds, fantastic production and a song for the ages. One of the great rock and roll singles.

Jefferson Airplane/Starship - I have no use for the Airplane stuff I've heard at all, and am no fan of Grace Slick. And I care for 90 % of the Starship stuff even less. But again, there's one glimmer among the dross: "Count On Me", an all time favorite pop ballad record, with a great arrangement - love the piano and acoustic guitar, a tune the likes of which I'd love to be able to write, and a singularly great lead vocal, singing one of the sweetest love lyrics ever.

The Guess Who - I like a lot of their records alright, but there's probably only one I'd seek out, and it's the same one you chose - "Star Baby". It exists sort of in a universe all it's own, having elements of any number of songs and genres, and yet nothing else quite sounds like it. And it's first rate.

The Marvellettes: I can't claim to be familiar with much of their output - even some of their hits are unknown to me. Therefore, this is sort of a punt, but I'll go with "Playboy". It has sort of the same feel as "Postman", a record which has never really appealed to me, in any version, but it strikes me as a better song, with a better vocal arrangement.

As to the Who - well, I think you should include any group or solo artist here, no matter how difficult - but as you know, I'm just not a fan of the Who. That's one of those groups where, for about 95 % of their stuff, I just shake my head and wonder what the appeal is.

7:27 AM, February 04, 2009

Blogger larryepke said...

OK, let’s play again!

The Cars: Trouser Press writers loved this group, but they never really clicked with me. I’ll take “My Best Friend’s Girl” of the ones I can recall. (You'll probably be outraged that on, looking up The Cars also gets links to albums by Styx, Journey and Supertramp!)

The Jefferson Whatsits: Lots of good stuff with this gang: “Coming Back to Me,” “Somebody to Love,” “Crown of Creation,” and one of my all time faves “White Rabbit” – the list goes on and on. “The Worst of the Jefferson Airplane” put “We Can Be Together” and “Volunteers” back to back to end the album, and they’ve always been linked in my mind. Therefore, that 2-for-1 pairing is my choice for this topic.

The Guess Who: CKLW sure played them a lot after the Canadian government passed a law requiring a certain percentage (10% I think it was) of Canadian content on the radio! (Joni Mitchell did well by that act as well.) “Undone” comes immediately to mind as a terrific song by them; slightly eerie, top-notch vocals and snappy ending. It's my choice here. (And I have to disagree about that late hit of theirs – I always referred to it as “Crap for the Wolfman.”)

The Marvelettes: This is just the opposite of The Cars – I couldn’t remember which songs they had done, because it seemed they never had a distinct identity. (Maybe that’s why the book about them is subtitled “Motown’s Mystery Group”.) I looked them up on Amazon and was surprised to find how many good songs they had. I had decided that “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game” was my fave before I’d finished reading your post, so at the risk of looking like I'm copying you, “Hunter” is my pick. And they get bonus points for the proto-feminism of “Too Strong to be Strung Along.”

We could do The Cryan Shames, but perhaps most readers don't know anything but "Sugar and Spice."

10:59 AM, February 04, 2009

Blogger Tom G. said...

The Cars - Not a big fan, because radio played their hits to death, but I admire their uniqueness. I'll also go with "Shake It Up." It's catchy and fun, with a David Byrne-like irony in the lyrics and vocals. "Drive" is good too.

Airplane/Starship - I love almost all of "Surrealistic Pillow." I'll go with a ballad: "Today" - just to avoid copying Stu. Slick and Balin had two of the best voices in rock at this point.

The Guess Who - Again, not a huge fan, but I'll pick "Undun" because of its unique blend of pop and psychedelic elements. (I HATE the dated and obnoxious "American Woman," but I do enjoy "Star Baby" and "Clap For the Wolfman.")

The Marvelettes - Stu was spot-on with "The Hunter Gets Captured By the Game." Motown for the Summer of Love. Just a totally unique record - vocals, arrangement, everything.

I view the Who as two seperate bands - I love the pre-"Who's Next" mod-psych pop-rock, and dislike the 70's bombast.

12:00 PM, February 04, 2009

Anonymous Duck said...

The Cars -- I only really like five or six of their songs, and My Best Friend's Girl is easily the tops of those.

Jefferson Airship -- I'll get ridiculed for saying this, but Jane is literally the only song of theirs I've heard that I dig. The psychedelic stuff was just way too weird for my taste, and We Built This City is perhaps the worst song ever. Jane is a very happy medium.

The Guess Who -- No Time.

The Marvelettes -- Can I pick another Cars song?? :)

12:04 PM, February 04, 2009

Blogger Todd Lucas said...

Cars - I like their first album quite a bit but that's about all that I really dig by them. I'll go with "Just What I Needed".

Airplane - I guess that I have to be boring and go with "Somebody To Love".

Guess Who - "It's My Pride"

Marvelettes - Gotta agree with Derek and go with "I'll Keep Holdin' On", one of the greatest things Motown ever produced.

2:28 PM, February 04, 2009

Anonymous Duck said...

I just thought of another Jefferson Starship song I like -- Ride The Tiger, off Dragon Fly, the first album they put out after changing the name of the band. I've only ever heard that on a mix tape that we used to play after closing when I worked at a fast food joint in college, and never on the radio. I've got that album on vinyl, so maybe I ought to record that and make a CD out of it and give it a listen. I still like Jane better, though.

And as far as the Marvelettes go ... I don't recall ever hearing of them before Stu's post. But after perusing around youtube, after Stu said I can't pick another Cars song, I came up with a couple that sounded ok; Here I Am Baby or Don't Make Hurting Me A Habit.

5:17 PM, February 04, 2009

Blogger Brian Marshall said...

Here's mine:

The Cars - "Just What I Needed" (Their debut single signified the punchiness that made their first album so great.)

The Jefferson Airplane/Starship thingy- "Wooden Ships" (Their version of this song (which one of them wrote with David Crosby, I believe) easily smokes CSN's because of its haunting qualities blending in with smokin' hot guitar runs.)

The Guess Who - "It's My Pride" (This was before they hit big with "These Eyes" and they already show their ability to craft catchy singles. This one has a much rawer edge and that's why I like it so much.)

The Marvelettes - "I'll Keep Holding On" (I only know a few of the Marvelettes' songs and this one, a Northern Soul standard, is probably my favorite.)

9:02 AM, February 05, 2009

Anonymous Jonathan said...

Cars: You're All I Got Tonight: captures neurotic obsession of their tense new wave

J.A./J.S.: "Volunteers" -- yearns to be neurotically obsessed with the good of society

Guess Who: "These Eyes" -- captures neurotic obsession of their Canadian pop

Marvallettes: "He's a Good Guy (Yes He Is)" captures neurotic obsession of the hint of doubt/protesting too much.

7:21 AM, February 06, 2009

Anonymous Ned said...

The Cars - it's between "Good Times Roll" & "All Mixed Up"

Jefferson Airplane - "White Rabbit" ( I think I like the intro. best)

The Guess Who - "No Time"

Does 2 cars = 1 Marvelettes?

The Who - I would also choose between the 60's/Mod stuff or the 70's Rock era.

9:00 PM, February 06, 2009

Anonymous Joyce said...

The Cars- "Shake It Up"

Jefferson Whoever- Eh. The nadir for any of their configurations was "We Built This City". And Grace Slick on her driveway threatening cops with a gun. But, what Bob Purse said about "Count on Me", I totally agree with.

The Guess Who- I really have come to appreciate The Guess Who a lot more and love, love Burton Cummings. Because I love a poppy pop song, my favorite is absolutely "Clap For the Wolfman". I'm gonna dig it till the day I die. (Insert Wolfman Jack laugh here.)

The Marvelettes- "Don't Mess With Bill"

1:41 AM, February 07, 2009

Blogger ChangLooGrace said...

Cars: Bought one of their LPs back in the day. Played once and left to gather dust. I went to YouTube to check them out again. I can see why that LP never got played again. No favourite.

Jefferson Airplane: "Two Heads" This as close as the Airplane got to becoming the American Shocking Blue!

Guess Who: "If You Don't Want Me" is my most often played Guess Who tune according to Last.FM. I love the whole pre-"These Eyes" era with "Shakin' All Over", "Made In England", "It's My Pride", "Heygoode Hardy" as well as "If You Don't Me". Even their Walter Brennan take on "Pretty Blue Eyes". After Randy left their recording got worse and worse. That's why I'm picking "Life In The Bloodstream". It came out well after I had written them off. Of course, it was just a blip on the screen before they hit rock bottom with "Clap For The Wolfman".

Marvelettes: My two favourite Marvelettes songs are "Please Mr Postman" by The Beatles and "Forever" by Brenda & The Tabulations. But since I gotta pick one of their recordings, I'll go with "Destination Anywhere".

12:43 PM, February 11, 2009


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