The 12 Songs I’ll Never Get Tired of Hearing – From the Bird’s Nest
Wow. A blog that isn’t about sports. A co-worker asked me just the other day how long I’ve been in broadcasting. When I told her, she asked “have you done sports the whole time?” And, the answer is yes and no. While I first got into sports broadcasting a year after I first started in radio, the first half of my career was primarily in music radio. Music has been as much as part of my life as sports. In my years “spinning records” (yes, they were records back then…made of vinyl) there have been songs that, after playing them for about the two hundredth time, I wouldn’t care if I never heard again. But there are many, many songs that I never get tired of hearing. And, never will. I decided to make a list. It took a while and I probably had thirty songs on the original list. I decided to cut it down to ten and just couldn’t do it. I finally drew the line at a dozen. You, no doubt, have your list as well. This is mine.
THREE DOG NIGHT: LIAR (1971)
Someone asked me recently why I thought this group wasn’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And I think the reason is they didn’t write their hits. But boy, they had plenty of them. In all, Three Dog Night had 21 Top-40 hits, including ten that reached the Top 10. My favorite is this 1971 hit which reached #7 on the charts. It was written by Russ Argent of the group bearing the same name. Legend has it that lead singer Danny Hutton actually recorded the song in the studio with his head in a toilet bowl just a couple of inches from the water, hence the echo in the lyric. During the Watergate mess, our radio station would sometimes carry President Nixon’s speeches. I always played this song coming out of the speech. Amazingly, I never got called out for that.
THE KINKS: LOLA (1970)
There are two versions of the song. Originally the lyric at the beginning said “…where you drink champagne and it tastes just like Coca-Cola.” But British radio wouldn’t play it because it violated the BBC rules against product placement. Lead singer Ray Davies left an American tour and flew to London to re-record the lyric using “cherry cola.” That was the version on the single that was played both in Britain and America. The song was inspired by an actual encounter between the band’s manager and a transvestite. Evidently the manager was too intoxicated to tell the difference. Gratefully, I've never been that drunk. The song still crack me up every time I hear it.
TRACY CHAPMAN: FAST CAR (1988)
This song grabbed me the first time I heard it and still hasn’t let go. The song was released and really took hold when Chapman performed it at Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday tribute concert in June. It was just so different from anything being played on the radio at that time. The song, which chronicles a woman’s struggles with poverty, and the album, entitled “Tracy Chapman,” earned the artist three Grammys, including best new artist. It reached #6 on the pop charts and the haunting sound still grabs me every time I hear it.
BOBBY DARIN: MACK THE KNIFE (1959)
Called “the best song ever written” by Simon Cowell, Mack the Knife is actually derived from “The Three Penny Opera.” It’s been recorded many times, but the definitive version belongs to Darin, who took it to the #1 spot in Billboard’s Hot 100, where it remained for nine weeks. Darin died in 1974 at the age of 37. He had many hit records in his career, but this one was his biggest and best. I still think it’s one of the purest vocals I’ve ever heard. It’s the only song on my list released before 1970.
DIRE STRAITS: WALK OF LIFE (1985)
While Mark Knopfler may be known for his guitar work, the organ hook in the long introduction to the song is what really catches your ear. Dire Straits had a couple of hits bigger than this one, which reached #7 on the charts, but this song is easily my favorite by this group. Go ahead, listen to it without tapping your feet. I dare you.
MARC COHN: WALKIN’ IN MEMPHIS (1991)
Amazingly, this song wasn’t a Top Ten hit nationally. This was Cohn’s only real hit, making him one of the “one hit wonders” on my list. Superbly written and sung, Cohn’s story of a musician trying to make it in the Blues City is a masterpiece. Cohn, by the way, is married to ABC News Correspondent Elizabeth Vargas. Lucky guy.
GRATEFUL DEAD: TOUCH OF GREY (1987)
I am by no means a “Deadhead,” although I’m very familiar with even their early music. This wound up being their biggest commercial hit, reaching #9 on the pop charts. Jerry Garcia’s easy delivery and message of “hey, it’s all good” makes this a song that’ll get you in a good mood, even if you’re down. “I WILL get by…I will survive….”
MARC BROUSSARD: HOME (2005)
The very first time I heard this song, I just said “Whoa!!” For me, this is one of the great rock anthems, maybe ever. From his debut CD “Carencro,” Broussard shows his incredible vocal range and rock/soul edge in a tune that’s rock, blues, and soul all rolled into one. Broussard just celebrated his 30th birthday and has lots of songs left in him in his career. He’ll have a helluva time topping this one, at least on my list. I get chills every time I watch the video and turn up the volume every time I hear the beginning drum. And, here’s a bit of trivia. That little boy he picks up at the end of the video is my grandson.
ALANIS MORISSETTE: YOU OUGHTA KNOW (1995)
My daughter gets the credit for turning me onto this artist. I heard her playing a tune from “Jagged Little Pill” and asked who it was. Two days later, I bought the CD. And, Morissette’s performance on the Grammy Awards that year sold me for good. This wasn’t the biggest hit on the CD (that award goes to “Ironic”), but this is the song that still makes me wonder how a woman could get that pissed off in a song. Morissette’s anger jumps right out at you. The CD went 16 times platinum in the U.S. Although the artist refuses to comment, it’s believed the song is about Dave Coulier (remember Joey on “Full House?” ) Some radio stations didn’t play even the edited version because of the sexual nature of the song.
GRAYSON HUGH: TALK IT OVER (1989)
C.J. from 99.9 KTDY and I joke that we might be the only two people who ever liked this song. Actually, the song did manage to reach the top 20, but wasn’t a mega-hit. The first time I heard it, I thought Sam Cooke had come back from the dead. By the second listen, I was hooked, and still am. It was the only hit record for the soulful-sounding Hugh, a first-generation American born to British parents. The video, which features singers popping out of suitcases is pretty cheesy, but still makes me laugh whenever I watch it. Go ahead, google it.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: THE RISING (2002)
Maybe it was because it was Springsteen’s first album in seven years and his first with the E Street Band in 18 years. Maybe it was because the song became our National Anthem of Hope after 9/11. No matter the reason, I don’t know that I’ve ever looked forward to a CD as much as this one. And, the first time I heard the title track, I had tears in my eyes. Told through the eyes of a first responder, “The Rising” is one of the most moving songs I’ve ever heard. And, yet, there’s a defiance in the song that gives us all hope for the future. “Come on up for the rising…..” Indeed.
ROD STEWART—MAGGIE MAY (1971)
Has it really been more than forty years? Am I STILL not tired of hearing this song?? Yes. No. I loved it the first time I heard it. I love it now. Rod Stewart may have become “Disco Rod” later in the seventies (no, Rod, I don’t think you’re sexy) and had way too much plastic surgery recently but I’m going to forgive him. I wore out more than one copy of “Every Picture Tells a Story,” during the last 40 years. (Another track from that album, “Mandolin Wind,” nearly made the list as well.) Here are a couple of things you may know know: The song was originally released as the “B” side in England to what they thought was going to be a hit, “Reason to Believe.” And, it was released as a single, unedited, which was very unusual for a song over five minutes in length. The song spent five weeks at #1, except in my heart, where it’s been #1 for 41 years.