I have 33,000 songs in my pocket. I can go for three months, twenty-four hours per day and not listen to the same song twice; well, at least not the same version. Or if I choose to I can listen to the same song repeatedly. It’s a world of abundance — not just abundance, but abundance of my choosing.
But when I was a kid being away from my turntable meant being at the mercy of the FM DJ. My chosen station (when I could get a signal) was WROQ out of Charlotte, but I would follow the jam around the dial. If I was lucky enough to hit “A Day In the Life,” “Kashmir,” “Lola,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” or Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up” I was locked in. Volume up, world tuned out, I wasn’t budging until the last note.
These weren’t necessarily my favorite songs; rather, they were the “something special is happening on the radio” songs. They were kind of like that one Christmas ornament I always loved because I only saw it once per year. In the modern age of abundance of my choosing I could create a playlist and play them to death, but I think I’ll keep them in their Christmas box and pull them out rarely.
Aside from the aforementioned, here are ten songs that stopped time and turned up the radio:
1. “Under Pressure,” Queen with David Bowie: This cut is much maligned as a throwaway. I don’t get it. It’s hooky as hell, rises to an epic crescendo, and features Freddie Mercury and David Bowie. Come on!
2. “All The Young Dudes,” Mott the Hoople: The greatest Bowie track that Bowie didn’t record, though he wrote, produced, and sang background on it. Also he eventually recorded it, but Mott The Hoople’s version is much better. Pop quiz: In what song does Queen name check Mott the Hoople? You’ll find the answer at the end of this column.
3. “Cat’s In the Cradle,” Harry Chapin: Every boy wanted their father to get the message. Those same boys are fathers now, and we all live in fear of being the dad in this song. This is the weepy guy song equivalent of the movie Rudy.
4. “I’d Love To Change the World,” Ten Years After: Every time I watch the Woodstock movie I have a different favorite performance, though admittedly Sha Na Na nor John Sebastian ever make the cut. Alvin Lee’s duck-lipped version of “Going Home” is always up there, though. A brilliant guitarist who sadly seems forgotten or at least under regarded today, “I’d Love To Change the World” is his magnum opus in my opinion. It still sounds fresh and relevant to me. Why isn’t this cut covered every couple of years?
5. “Monkey Man,” The Rolling Stones: The “Gimme Shelter” for people who prefer deeper cuts.
6. “Isn’t It Time,” The Babys: Perfectly produced power pop with a great vocal from John Waite. What always grabbed me was how it built to the chorus. Fun fact: Journey’s Jonathan Cain did some time in The Babys after this track.
7. “Sign Of the Gypsy Queen,” April Wine: Another great pop song, this one encroaching on Stevie Nicks’s mystical territory.
8. “Magic Power,” Triumph: Two Canadian power pop songs in a row? I must be in a good mood. And I’m a sucker for a 12-string.
9. “Children Of the Sun,” Billy Thorpe: Big, epic, hooky, cool.
10. “Sub-Rosa Speedway,” Klaatu: Maybe you had to be there to feel the excitement, but in the Seventies there were many rumors of a Beatles reunion. When this track came out many believed that this was a top-secret Beatles project.
So there’s ten from me. What were your “turn up the radio” songs? Don’t let me down, people — I’m interested.
Pop quiz answer: Queen name checked Mott the Hoople on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OSd17ko3O4
Other “Why It Matters” pieces related to this one:
Well, I am happy to tell you about 10 songs that made me happy, made me turn it up. But I’m afraid they aren’t deep cuts. When I was a kid, I didn’t have an album collection. I heard what was presented to me on the radio often. So that’s what I knew and what thrilled me. Here are 10 “Turn It Up” songs that I LOVED then…and now 🙂 No particular order:
Dancing in the Moonlight – King Harvest
Starry Night – Don McLean
Brandy – Looking Glass
Playground in My Mind – Clint Holmes
Seasons in the Sun – Terry Jacks
I Like Dreamin’ – Kenny Nolan
Southern Nights – Glen Campbell
Hot Child in the City – Nick Gilder
Tears of a Clown – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
Reeling in the Years – Steely Dan
You have rendered “Brandy” my earworm of the day. That is a very well-crafted pop song, as are many others on your “turn up the radio” list.
April Wine and Triumph. Holy Cow. Acid flashbacks. Although you didn’t do acid to these bands…
And now you’re going to play “Lay It On the Line” and stare at your lava lamp…
Dudimus: it’s Fight the Good Fight I’ll have you know, and if you’re not careful I’ll talk about Loverboy. You must do a better job of pandering to your audience, I say!
No pandering here. This is a 100% junior high James certified list. Just wait until high school James gets a look at it.
We were lucky with radio stations in LA, especially if nobody noticed that we were tumbling in through our bedroom windows at four a.m., when the DJ decided to skip the hit and play the next track. Back when I was a passenger in the car and we were at the mercy of the dial? I remember striking gold on:
1. “Horses” Patti Smith
2 “Jungleland” Bruce Springsteen
3. “Hang On To Yourself” David Bowie
4. “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo” Rolling Stones
5. “Long Live Rock” The Who
I know there are more, they are just out of earshot, totally drowned out by these five – and a slight case of poor memory due to all of that sliding in and out of dew covered bedroom windows.
This is a sweet list. “Jungleland” in particular is one of those “something special is happening right now, stop everything” songs.
Re: Jungleland – bingo! Man, if I had a buck for every time I ‘stopped everything’ for that song. Here we are, almost forty years later, and something special still happens the minute I hear that opening violin melody.
6. “Philidelphia Freedom” Elton John
7. “Ballroom Blitz” – The Sweet
How could I forget? Practically a daily dial crank. Good lord.
My sister had “Philadelphia Freedom” on 45. We listened to it all the time on the hand me down hi-fi. I wonder if people realize just how big Elton John was in the Seventies. It’s almost hard to imagine that decade without him, for better or worse.
Yeah….even before “Philadelphia Freedom” – Honky Chateau. My sister had that album, and I snuck it out of her room and put it on my little stereo in my bedroom when no one was home – my ten year old flailing self would ‘dance’ so hard I’d collapse in a heap, just in time to start crying to “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters”. Nineteen seventy-two.
Quick question – Tomas was wondering if, since you had the 45 of “Philadelphia Freedom”, do you remember what the “B” side was?
I can’t believe I forgot this. The B-side was a live version of “I Saw Her Standing There” with John Lennon.
OH my god that is beyond awesome. I have never even heard it, so off I go to the whatspaceutuneswebgoogle store and I’ll catch you later a few cuts down the road.
Shit, your blog is a must-follow (so I am). (Also Twitter).
Stuff that came up on the radio – very occasionally – that I had to listen to Kashmir (zep),. won’t get fooled again (who), young man blues (who), L.A. Woman (doors), and I recall one very tedious holiday with the parents staying in a totally crap hotel chalet, In a gadda da vida came on… weird but welcome! So much good stuff out there than used not to get airplay but when it did – yep, my ears were awake.
There was a pirate station in the UK called Alice’s Restaurant that I used to love. You can imagine what that played!
I’ve always envied you Brits and your pirate radio. For an American that always sounded awfully romantic. And John Peel! How lucky were you?