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
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