The great Led Zeppelin fantasy draft

Young Zeppelin

On Nov. 18, the Music or Space Shuttle? boys joined honorary MoSS? brother Travis for an evening of Led Zeppelin love at Donnelly’s Pub (the Music or Space Shuttle? Iowa City office). What we did was similar to this past summer’s Smashing Pumpkins “draft”: compile the best playlist of Zep tunes. Rather than having a traditional draft, we decided this time we’d put the songs on the auction block. Everyone would have a shot at songs, assuming they could budget accordingly. So armed with 100 credits and some drinks, sliders, and wings, we took turns tossing out tunes and creating 10-song playlists.

Here’s how it played out. Consider each guy’s recap and click the links at the bottom to have your say (or feel free to comment here on the blog).

Todd’s Draft Notes (a.k.a. In My Time of Drafting)

What was my drafting strategy for this time around? I’d like to say I walked into the drafting room like at the Smashing Plant 4 Pumpkins draft, unprepared but confident and loose. No, I studied for this one. The two days prior to drafting, I listened to Led Zep non-stop, choosing favorite songs and thinking about possible themes for a good set list. Should I go with the hits? Should I go with the bluesy stuff? Should I focus on one album? Maybe I’ll just take songs that reference The Lord of the Rings trilogy? Basically, I was rocking the fuck out of my cubicle at work. I’m usually quiet as a church mouse and keep to myself at the office so coworkers were taken aback by the braggadocio I exuded while strutted around my workspace like Robert Plant. There’s just something about Led Zeppelin that brings out that inner rock n’ roll god attitude.

So yeah, I had a few strategies. The only thing I didn’t have a plan for was the drafting method. We decided on an auction style draft this time. That meant that everyone had a chance to take any song as long as they bid the highest. With that knowledge I knew I didn’t want to get into some crazy bidding war on one song and screw myself out of good songs later in the draft by blowing a huge portion of my $100 limit.

With my first chance to bid, I started off with one of the songs at the top of my favorites list, “Ramble On.” I thought this may be a bid heavy song but luckily I got it for $15. Not too bad. It was early and we were all getting a feel for the auction process. Plus, I figured I could make up the deficit with some deep cuts later.

Sam was up next. He chose “The Rain Song,” the song I had highlighted as the one with the highest potential for crazy bidding. Every Zeppelin fan loves that song and I knew that my Main-MoSS?-Man Chris REALLY loves that song. Sam started the bidding low and we quickly went around the table driving the price further and further up. Once the bidding was in the teens Travis and I bailed out. Sam and Chris continued bidding until Sam finally won with a $40 bid. It’s a great tune but I’m sure Sam will admit that his now very limited budget severely hampered his future drafting. I think Chris teared up a bit when he finally gave up and lost. Maybe it was just from of the hot sauce on the chicken wings he was eating during the draft. Who’s to say?

For my second bid opportunity I chose “The Wanton Song.” I’ve always loved that song, mainly because of the percussion. It’s your typical John Bonham power drumming but I love all the little fills that he throws in during the choruses. No one else in the draft must have cared for Wanton as much as me because I won the bid with a thrifty $5. I now had two songs at an average of $10 a piece. Right on pace.Bonham

My third song purchased was “That’s the Way.” I friggin’ love that tune. I had it pegged as my “Must Have Song.” If I was going to really overpay for a song, this was it. To my shock I won the bidding without a struggle. I bought it for the low-low price of $10. Still right on pace.

I went with that strategy for the rest of the draft, taking songs at or below the $10 mark. The only song that I went over $10 with was “Bring It On Home,” the last song on Led Zeppelin II. I really wanted it for my set list closer. $15 was a small price to pay in my opinion. Especially since after that I picked up some absolute bargains:

“Your Time Is Gonna Come” for $10
“Friends” for $6
“Over the Hills and Far Away” for $11
“Immigrant Song” for $3
“Kashmir” $11
“Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” for $1

All of those kick-ass songs and I ended with a $13 surplus. The U.S. government could take a lesson from my frugal spending habits. Although, there was a small to medium sized controversy surrounding my last pick.

I had one song left to select and still had $14 remaining. I looked at my draft board (my iPhone) and saw 3-4 songs I would have been more than happy to have as my 10th selection. The song that caught my attention most was “In My Time of Dying,” a bluesy slide guitar filled song from Physical Graffiti. I started the bidding at $1. From Sam’s reaction at my choice, I got the impression this song was on his draft board as well. With his limited funds I thought he was struggling with whether or not to bid. Being a fairly good sport, I decided that if he bid I would just let him have the song. Then I realized he was really just bidding to get me out of the draft. My thrifty drafting of killer tunes was getting on his nerves. So he threw out a bid of $13 on the hopes I would counter with $14. He would concede and I would be out of the draft. Well that wasn’t going to happen. Like I said earlier, if he bid I was going to let him have it, only this bid was well over the song’s value and would further dip into his already minimal budget. Sportsmanship went out the window as I said, ”You can have it.” Sam was not thrilled. I’m wondering how his version of this event will go. (He swears a lot yet defends the hell out of it. –ed.) Anyways, after the dust cleared and my next turn came up I bid on and won the song “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” for $1. I’ve always loved the guitars on that one and it fit well in an already Led Zeppelin III-heavy set list.

Plant 1Was it a perfect draft? No. Did I walk away happy? Definitely. I only lost out on one song that I really coveted, “How Many More Times.” Chris and I had a small bidding war on that one. I gave up after $16. Seems silly now after leaving the draft with money on the table. Live and learn, I guess. I did really enjoy the auction style draft and hope we incorporate it in future fantasy playlist events. So after all that, here is my set list. I didn’t really have to spend much time tinkering with the song order. Like I wrote above, the list is a bit Led Zeppelin III heavy, so of course I open with the first two songs from that album. The rest sort of fell into place after that. Give it a spin. Careful not to get too crazy if you’re listening at work. Most workplaces will only tolerate a small amount of rock n’ roll machismo. Too much and someone will surely alert Human Resources.

 

 

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Team Travis (a.k.a. My Girlfriend Made Me Buy That One Song)

I am a music fan, and I am also a fan of making lists about music. So, when Chris approached me to join the MoSS? Led Zeppelin song auction…fuck yeah, I’m in.

I went into Donnelly’s Pub that night with a pretty good idea of the playlist I wanted, but I figured that with songs this good and three other guys with music tastes very similar to mine, I would face a battle for most of these.

The highlights from my perspective:

  1. Zeppelin acoustic“Going to California.” My favorite Led Zeppelin song, it’s just beautiful. Great Jimmy Page acoustic guitar. Outstanding lyrics. Just perfect. I was gonna go “all in.” As luck would have it, I won the roshambo match to see who started first, and I was not fucking around! The bids go around the table and…what? I just got “Going to California” for 10 credits? What just happened? I didn’t see that smooth victory coming. Little did the other guys know that they could have bankrupted me and left me with a playlist full of “South Bound Saurezes” and “Candy Store Rocks.”
  1. “When the Levee Breaks.” My second-favorite Zeppelin song. The thunderous drums, the slide guitar, and that harmonica that sounds like a freight train stuffed full of demons rolling through. That song has always had a Midwest, blue collar feel to me. I love it, and had to have it. I had a little more opposition with the bids, but I won it for 20 credits. Sweet, I’m off to a kick-ass start!
  1. It got bluesy up in here. I managed to score “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” “Tea For One,” and “I Can’t Quit You Baby.” I’ve heard a lot of people say Led Zeppelin stole from the old blues artists; I say I don’t give a fuck—they did it better every time. If you’ve ever been 10 beers deep, put on a dim red light, and listened to “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” you know where I’m coming from.
  1. “No Quarter.” That riff. That tone. ’Nuff said.
  1. I was very happy I was able to score both “What Is and What Should Never Be” and “Thank You.” Two great songs that are perfect for rounding out a Zeppelin mix between the rocking and the beautiful.
  1. “Heartbreaker.” I needed a rocker, and I got one. That opening riff just screams Led Zeppelin. A perfect rocking addition to my playlist.
  1. “All My Love.” OK, could I have gone for “Black Dog” at this point? Maybe “In The Evening”? Both good tunes that hadn’t been picked yet. Maybe “Gallows Pole”? Nope! I was instructed by my girlfriend before I left that I must have “All My Love.” We like that song. It has a special place. (She also demanded I get “Immigrant Song” because she is part-Viking, but I passed on that one.)

All in all, I think I made a fucking solid list…as did the other three guys. That’s the great thing about Led Zeppelin: you can make a kickass 40 song playlist. In retrospect I should have bid harder for “Dazed and Confused” and “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.” As much as my playlist rocks, it’s missing those two songs. “Kashmir” also would have been a very welcome addition.

My biggest takeaway from the auction: I’ll admit, I never really gave “The Rain Song” a chance before. Chris and Sam went head to head for that song, and it wound up being the most expensive song of the night, ending at 40 credits. I thought, “Am I missing something here?” I went home and listened to it with a different set of ears, and I understand now. The slow build. The almost weather-sounding guitar licks. Then the glorious climax that is almost like the sun coming out after a storm. There’s just something about that moment when a song you’ve heard a million times finally makes sense. As Todd stated after many of the songs got put on the auction table: “Oooh, that’s a good one.”

Also, it was fun watching Sam give himself an ulcer.

#####

Team Sam: “Nobody’s Fault But Mine (Please Remove Your Gallows Pole From My Ass)”

I was 14 when Led Zeppelin entered my life. Seems young, but I already felt old. I was (happily) buried up to my eyeballs in pretty much nothing but thrash metal at that point, with a few lingering vestiges of the hair bands clinging for dear life. And for some reason, I fought it when my pal Scott Boone tried forcing this dinosaur band down my throat. In hindsight … um, why exactly? This band is the friggin’ foundation of every band I loved. He lent me his cassette of Led Zeppelin I, and it sat on my speaker for months. Months. I finally listened. Yeah OK, it was pretty good.

Then I heard IV. And II. Holy. Shit. Then he gave me Houses of the Holy, and it was the only album I listened to for months.

Oh yeah … Boone ended up becoming a priest. He spent time in the Vatican. He’s hung out with the Pope. Yeah, there’s some knowledge and influence there. Probably shoulda listened sooner. I’m sorry, padre. Please forgive me of my sins. Send up a good word for me.

I set out to make him proud in this draft. Piece of cake.

I boned up and created cheat sheats when we did the Pumpkins draft. But this one? No prep work. Why would I need to study? This is Led Zeppelin we’re talking about. The catalog is incredible, but it’s not vast. I knew my must-have list. This would be easy.

Wrong.

The Pumpkins snake draft had been easy, but I hadn’t even considered for a second what adding a fourth person to the mix would mean. And the bidding format? The fact that everyone had a shot at every song? Fuck. I didn’t know it, but I was in for a long night.

Pick #1: The Rain Song

This was Chris and me the first time we listened to “The Rain Song” together in 1998.

This was a no-brainer. The only song going into the draft I knew I had to have. And I knew it would be a fight. I knew Chris loved it as much as I did. It was going to be a bloodbath.

The mistake was not waiting. I should have let a few rounds pass until I got a feel for the bidding. But instead, I figured “let’s get this out of the way right now.” Patience is a virtue … I wish I had remembered that.

I put it up fourth overall, the first time the pick was mine was to make. Todd and Travis didn’t even bother and got out almost immediately as bidding jumped by increments of five. Neither guy was backing down.

Eventually, I said $38. Chris countered with $39. Was I really ready to spend $40 on one song? I was ready to begrudgingly bug out.

But it was “The Rain Song.” Much as I tried, I physically could not stop. I said $40. I swear to God, if Chris had said $41, I was out. But he was the one who couldn’t pull the trigger. I had won.

In the greater scheme of things, turns out I probably didn’t. With all the ammo he saved, Chris went on to draft a playlist for the ages. Meanwhile, I was Mike Ditka trading my whole draft class to pick Ricky Williams. Almost half my credits were gone. On one song.

Let’s make one thing clear right now: that’s not a knock on “The Rain Song.” Sweet fucking Christ, no. It’s eight minutes of musical perfection. It’s easily my favorite Led Zeppelin song of all time. And it’s probably in my top five songs ever created by man.

It’s just a very hard song to build a draft around. I would just have to find a way. With food stamps, apparently.

Pick #2: Tangerine

After the shock had worn off, I had to soldier on. I watched helplessly as song after song I coveted slipped out of my grasp. But I couldn’t let “Tangerine” go without a fight. My favorite song off of III (almost neck and neck with “That’s The Way,” which I later found out was Todd’s must-have. I didn’t have the ammunition to fight for it so he got it for fucking peanuts).

The good news? I got “Tangerine.” The bad news? It cost $12. I now only had $48 to spend on my last eight songs – a scant $6 per song. I wasn’t optimistic.

But I’d worry about it later. “Tangerine” was worth the risk, since it’s the soundtrack to the perfect epilogue of one of my top five favorite movies of all time, Almost Famous:

Pick #4: In My Time of Dying

By the time I acquired a deep-cut favorite (“Out on the Tiles”) with my third pick, everyone else was eight or nine deep. It was ridiculous. Todd had filled his first nine slots and still had $14 left. He put “In My Time of Dying,” the 11-minute epic from Physical Graffiti, on the board. After a very solid draft, it would’ve been the perfect closing pick for him. And for me to navigate the rest of the draft on the cheap, I need him out. I didn’t have my heart set on the tune, so I wanted to make sure he took it. We both win, right?

The problem is that I was on tilt from losing so many of my coveted songs, causing my admittedly dumb ass to actually announce this plan OUT LOUD at the table. And instead of jumping in with a low bid, I immediately bid $13, meaning Todd could go to $14 and finish up strong.

Instead, he says “take it.”

Motherfucker. I’m convinced he did it just to see me melt down. If that’s the case, he succeeded.

Even worse, he takes “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” – one of the more annoying songs in the Led Zeppelin catalog (seriously, it’s on par with “Hot Dog”) – for a dollar, finishing with a surplus of 13 imaginary dollars, which he can use to finance his trip to the land of fucking make-believe, climbing rainbows and hunting leprechauns while mounted on his flying unicorn. Meanwhile, I had spent $70 on four songs.

The next day when I was assembling my final playlist, I realized I was an idiot for being mad about this. Why? Because of his majesty, Sir John Fucking Bonham.

There’s a reason why every kid who picks up a set of drumsticks wants to be this guy. This is the king’s showcase tune. And for anyone still doubting this, skip ahead to the 3:45 mark. The timing of a metronome, yet he still hits really fucking hard. The footwork … no double bass drum. All with one foot. Unbelievable. I can’t believe I was pissed. I got lucky.

So Todd, enjoy the hillbilly romp with your last pick. If you’d stuck to your guns, your playlist might’ve rivaled Chris.

I thought I was the one who fucked up. Turns out it was you. Idiot.

(Did you write this part after the Odell Beckham catch or something? –ed.)

(Yes. Yes, I did. Too obvious? — Sam)

* * * * *

I ended up sailing through the rest of the draft somewhat painlessly. I jumped in on a few songs just to drive the price up on Travis and Chris and give myself some breathing room. I scooped up a few of my favorite deeper cuts like “The Battle of Evermore” and “Down by the Seaside” for pennies, and scored “The Song Remains the Same” to be my closer (even though it’s actually an album opener).

Also, here’s some random notes on a few of my picks:

Pick #9: The Ocean

“I think her name is Lucy but they all call her Loose …”

I was into the Beastie Boys before I knew Zeppelin. It’s only fair to acknowledge that here:

Speaking of which …

Pick #7: Good Times Bad Times

Like I said, I was buried in thrash metal before I discovered the Zep. This is a perfect example of me needing to pay better attention back then, because there was a (short) time when I didn’t know this was a cover:

Pick #3: Out on the Tiles

Zeppelin has always been accused of, ahem, “liberally borrowing” from the great old blues legends. But what about the bands that liberally borrow from them? There’s a pretty cool new band out there called Rival Sons, and when I caught the video for their song “Pressure and Time” on the new 120 Minutes a while back, its main riff sounded vaguely familiar

Pick #10: Custard Pie

With everyone’s boards full, the guy that at one time only had $48 to pick eight songs now had $17 left to pick two songs unopposed. Christ. I went with the aforementioned “The Ocean” first.

There were some very well-known tunes left in the pool for the final pick in the draft. “Black Dog.” “Rock and Roll.” “Communication Breakdown.” “Fool in the Rain.” “Achilles Last Stand.”

But as a guy burned out on the band’s populist tunes ruined by classic rock radio, I wasn’t interested. In fact, I would’ve given up a spot and paid my cohorts to NOT infect our draft with “D’yer Mak’er.” Thankfully, that was unnecessary.

(And my sincerest apologies, Booner, but I couldn’t pull the trigger on “The Crunge.” The image of you dancing in those bell-bottomed maroon sweatpants of yours wasn’t enticing enough. I guess we’ll never find that confounded bridge, padre.)

Instead, I picked this one, the opener from Physical Graffiti, mainly because the version that Page played with the Black Crowes kicks all kinds of ass:

* * * * *

I won’t lie: When we were done, I was disappointed with my list and thought it was pretty clear that Chris had dominated the draft. Because I went for “The Rain Song” way too early, before I had figured out a gameplan, Travis (“Thank You”), Todd (“Your Time is Gonna Come” and “That’s the Way”), and Chris (“Ten Years Gone”) all got songs I coveted without much of a fight, and I never stood a chance when heavy hitters like “When the Levee Breaks,” “Dazed and Confused,” and “Stairway To Heaven” were up for grabs.

But thankfully, as I listened to my final assembled playlist aboard an elliptical machine at my gym, I had an epiphany.

In what fucking universe was my list bad?

It has my favorite Zeppelin song of all time. It has another top five song. It has a signature Bonham song. It has a whole gaggle of songs that I’ve absolutely loved for decades.

Most importantly, it has a bunch of killer tunes that haven’t been buried by overexposure on classic rock radio. I grew up in Marshalltown listening to FM 95 KGGO – (Skynyrd! Boston! Eagles! Only Back in Black and that’s it by AC/DC! Clapton’s absolute worst!) – and you heard the same Zeppelin songs. All. The. Time. So as good as Chris’ list is, I’ve heard “Whole Lotta Love” and “Misty Mountain Hop” and even “Stairway to Heaven” enough.

If I wanted to initiate a novice to the band, I’d pick his list, sure. But if I wanted to show a budding fan what lies beneath, I think I’d pick mine over Travis and Todd’s lists. I might just feel differently tomorrow, but that’s how I feel as I write this. That’s because all four lists effing rule. ALL of them. But if you’re ready to take a deeper dive, grab a vest and start here.

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Team Chris (a.k.a. Sara M Knows a Winner When She Sees One)

I spent most of the week before our Led Zep extravaganza in Atlanta with two of my favorite co-workers (and two of my favorite people, period), where we ate, drank, ate, watched Interstellar, ate, drank, ate grits, drank, watched The Breakfast Club, ate, and drank things named “Buttery Nipple,” “Naked Girl Scout,” and “The Wet Spot.” And we went to sessions and workshops on higher education communication when we had time.

One particular night before we went out, Sara M fired up a YouTube video of Led Zep performing in 1969, tearing through a handful of tunes from the debut album. We had recently talked about Led Zeppelin I‘s place in the band’s album hierarchy; I argued it was fourth-best at best, while she said it belonged among the very best. And seeing these young kids (Plant and Bonham were 20 at most at the time) go to work, I suddenly realized she might be correct. (She usually is.)

Anyway, I went into our Led Zep playlist auction fresh off this awakening. And it kinda shows in my playlist, or perhaps the amount of money I spent on the three songs I bought from the debut album.

Going in, I had five songs I really wanted: “The Rain Song” (this has been covered above, I believe), “Ten Years Gone,” “Whole Lotta Love,” “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” and “How Many More Times.”

success-lolFour out of five = success. Consider: Meat Loaf says a 66.6666666666666667% rate of success ain’t bad, so I am confident that 80% isn’t too shabby.

“Whole Lotta Love” was my introduction to Led Zeppelin, courtesy of my dad’s vinyl copy of Led Zeppelin II. It was like something out of Almost Famous: young teen, over-the-ear headphones, dark bedroom, and genuine intrigue. It was amazing to hear the song swirl around the headphones. Song will always hold a lofty spot for me.

I enjoyed the fight for a couple of these songs (“Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and “How Many More Times”). They both went a bit above the average price ($18 and $16) but money well spent. I also respected Sam’s determination to get our shared favorite song.

The cool thing, aside from getting the best playlist of the bunch (speaking objectively, of course), is that our personal “quirky” songs were exposed through low-bid wins. Mine: “Four Sticks” for $1 and “Bron-Yr-Aur” for $3. I once suggested our football team take the field to “Four Sticks” (request denied); I think it would have been pretty fucking intimidating. And “Bron-Yr-Aur” is a couple of minutes of beauty. Todd got his with “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” and Travis landed “Tea for One” for $1. Sam got a couple as well, although he had to go up to $4 to keep “Down By the Seaside” off my list.

The biggest surprise was my acquisition of three songs from Led Zeppelin IV, especially “Stairway to Heaven.” But as songs went off the board, I realized that those overplayed tunes on IV are overplayed for a reason: they’re pretty fuckin’ good (like a $5 milkshake, one might say). And I must admit, listening to “Stairway” always takes me back to my football days, sitting in front of my locker, cranking the last two minutes of that tune through my Walkman earphones and feeling like I could run through a wall. Not because the lyrical content would inspire one to do that; not because the song goes at 200 bpm. I think it was the crescendo effect of an epic song. And for $12, why not add it to the list.

I couldn’t wait to get back to work the next day and blare my playlist for my officemate…the aforementioned Sara M. She approved, with a sly wink toward “all the Led Zeppelin I on here.”

Yeah, yeah…

#####

Auction recap

(listed in order of acquisition; winning bid in parentheses)

Travis

  • Going to California (10)
  • When the Levee Breaks (20)
  • Tea for One (1)
  • Thank You (17)
  • No Quarter (11)
  • Since I’ve Been Loving You (16)
  • Heartbreaker (8)
  • I Can’t Quit You Baby (3)
  • What Is and What Should Never Be (7)
  • All My Love (1)

Chris

  • Whole Lotta Love (20)
  • Dazed and Confused (10)
  • How Many More Times (16)
  • Four Sticks (1)
  • Ten Years Gone (16)
  • Babe I’m Gonna Leave You (18)
  • Stairway to Heaven (12)
  • Dancing Days (1)
  • Bron-Yr-Aur (3)
  • Misty Mountain Hop (3)

Todd

  • Ramble On (15)
  • The Wanton Song (5)
  • That’s the Way (10)
  • Your Time Is Gonna Come (10)
  • Bring It On Home (15)
  • Friends (6)
  • Over the Hills and Far Away (11)
  • Immigrant Song (3)
  • Kashmir (11)
  • Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp (1)

Sam

  • The Rain Song (40)
  • Tangerine (12)
  • Out on the Tiles (5)
  • In My Time of Dying (13)
  • The Battle of Evermore (1)
  • The Song Remains the Same (5)
  • Good Times Bad Times (3)
  • Down By the Seaside (4)
  • The Ocean (1)
  • Custard Pie (1)

What song would you have broken the bank to get? What song(s) should have made our lists? And is there a clear winner among the four playlists? Sound off in the comments, or have your say on our Facebook page. Or yell at us on Twitter.

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The great Smashing Pumpkins fantasy draft: An introduction

 

Look who’s back in the news! All over it, in fact.

billy corgan holding cats

In the last couple of weeks, Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan has announced that he’s working on not one but two albums of new material, including one with Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee laying down the drum tracks.

He’s supervising the remastering and re-releases of deluxe versions of the Pumpkins’ Adore and MACHINA/The Machines of God, the latter in its original intended form – remixed and resequenced along with the internet-only release MACHINA II/The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music to finally realize its destiny as a conceptual double album.

He’s had his AMC reality show about professional wrestling greenlit. Hopefully it will be as entertaining as his wrestling-themed furniture store commercial:

And then, in case you’ve already forgotten, there was this:

billy corgan holding cats

Any self-respecting MoSS? reader knows that the Smashing Pumpkins breathe rarified air around these parts. In their respective lists of the undisputed greatest albums of all time, the Pumpkins were everywhere, so there’s no reason for Todd or Chris to explain that again when they already did it here. And here and here. And here. Oh yeah, and here.

For the record, since my only role back then was as a loyal reader, my top 5 undisputed albums of all time include the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, Slayer’s Reign in Blood and I’d probably round out the top 5 with Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy. OK, that’s four.

See, I can do that because my No. 1 album of all time is Gish AND Siamese Dream. I can’t separate them. One day it’s Gish, the next day it’s Dream. But they are interchangeable to the point I stopped interchanging them years ago and count them as a single entity. But if Chris and Todd would have forced me to choose at gunpoint, I would have put them at 1 and 2 and bumped Zeppelin. That’s right … I’d bump Zeppelin. That’s how much I love those Pumpkins records.

Now, in all honesty, all three of us, at one point or another, have fallen in and out of love with this band. I remember the day I bought Adore and loaned it to Chris before I even had a chance to hear it myself. An hour later, I asked him what he thought and he looked at me like I’d just cupped a fart in my hand and stuck it in his face. And I’m sure I probably made that face myself after I first heard MACHINA.

Years later, the strength of the post-breakup lineup (and their fine 2012 album Oceania) has me excited for what’s on the horizon. But no matter what the future brings us, the strength of the Smashing Pumpkins’ early catalog – starting with 1991’s Gish through their 1995 magnum-opus double album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness – can always suck us back in.

Look at the finite catalog of, say, Zeppelin. Those first five records – I, II, III, IV and Houses of the Holy – are followed by a double album, Physical Graffiti. After Graffiti, the remaining catalog is really hit or miss. Some great tracks sprinkled around but the complete albums were not as strong. But those first albums and the double album? Near perfection (even with the liberal “borrowing” from the blues legends of the past).

Now … take Gish and Siamese Dream, the excellent rarities compilation Pisces Iscariot, the myriad remaining non-album tracks and B-sides from that era, and follow it with Mellon Collie … in the humble opinion of this Gen-X writer, you have a fair comparison. The later records have some excellent songs, for sure, but the complete albums don’t hold up like the first ones do.

Pumpkins 1993Let’s pretend the Pumpkins had died in a plane crash in mid-1995 (with Mellon Collie in the can but before it was released … hopefully, they’d have an Eddie Kramer-style overseer saying, “Hey, you know what? Let’s just release this as a kickass single disc instead,” which would have meant a second disc of material was still out there along with what would later become The Aeroplane Flies High box set of outtakes, ensuring years of Hendrix/Tupac-type posthumous releases). Leaving behind that above-mentioned songbook and recordings as their legacy, they might have been the greatest band of all time. At least in my book.

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So, with the Pumpkins on the brain, the three of us decided to have a little fantasy draft, with each guy trying to compile the ultimate playlist.

Fifteen songs each. But certain criteria had to be met. Each guy had to pick nine songs fulfilling these requirements:

  • A “Track 1” song
  • An album-closing song
  • A song that is at least 8 minutes long
  • A cover song
  • A James Iha song
  • A song featuring a girls’ name in the title
  • A Pisces Iscariot song
  • At least one Adore or MACHINA song
  • At least one song released after the original lineup’s breakup in 2000

Then, after those requirements were met, there were six wild-card slots. Fill them however you like.

We all missed out on songs we coveted. Then again, there were a few songs that weren’t even on the other guys’ radars when they were picked. But even so, if I had gotten the five or so songs I missed out on, I don’t know what I would have bumped to fit them in.

In the end, it was astonishing that all three of us walked away thinking we’d won the draft. And when we looked at what was left on the board, we agreed that had there been a fourth person, it would have gotten a little dicier since, guaranteed, there was no way we would’ve have ended up with the picks that we did.

So once we were done, we did an impromptu pick’em with the remaining songs for a hypothetical fourth man at the table. Here’s how that ended up:

  1. “1979”
  2. “Today”
  3. “Slunk”
  4. “Disarm”
  5. “Galapagos”
  6. “Blue”
  7. “Muzzle”
  8. “Geek U.S.A.”
  9. “Zero”
  10. “Thirty-Three”
  11. “Bodies”
  12. “For Martha”
  13. “Plume”
  14. “Tristessa”
  15. “By Starlight”

Notice something? Almost every single big radio and MTV staple the band put out was NOT chosen in the draft. And a few – such as “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and “Perfect” – didn’t even make this “best of the rest” top 15 list. A stronger, deeper catalog than one might remember, eh?

All three of our drafts are tip-top. You can’t lose.

But still, I don’t think there’s any question that when you get a chance to analyze the results, you’ll agree that I won. Handily. And I’ll take the fuckin’ Pepsi Challenge with either of these clowns to prove it. Bring it on.

Come back to Music or Space Shuttle? on Monday, June 2, for the playlists and self-analysis of the draft. What song would you have taken #1? What song(s) in the “best of the rest” list above should have made one of our playlists? Sound off in the comments, or have your say on our Facebook page. Or yell at us on Twitter.

Record Store Day Returns Along With My Music Hoarding Habit

Record Store Day 2014This weekend marks the return of the annual Record Store Day. As luck would have it, I recently started buying vinyl albums. While collecting vinyl is new to me, the act of collecting music is not. I’ve owned music in pretty much every format over the years but I was a bit too young to ever actually own my own records as a kid. Growing up in the ‘80s, I jumped right into the cassette tape era. My first tape (Men at Work, Cargo) was a present for my 8th or 9th birthday. I can’t remember which; these things tend to get a bit fuzzy as of late.

What I do remember is the joy of actually owning a physical copy my favorite band’s recording.

Men at Work Cargo

The tape that started it all

That’s right, for a short period in 1983, Men at Work was my favorite band. So what?!
“Settle Down and Eat Your Peas and Gravy, My Boy.” What lyrics!
“This is the story of Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jive.”  What imagination!

Not all of my cassettes were the proper studio pre-packaged release. Most of my tapes were homemade mixes filled with songs recorded from the radio. They didn’t have lyrics sheets or cool covers but it was still a physical possession. Plus, there was an enormous amount of fun that went along with my secret cassette naming and cataloging schemes. Only I could know that OMD’s “If You Leave” was on Side B of the tape labeled Radio Goo Goo Ga Ga. It was the song after Paul Hardcastle’s “19” but right before “Somebody’s Watchin’ Me” by Rockwell.

Whether it was cassettes in the ‘80s or CDs in the ‘90s I truly enjoyed the music collecting process. I loved it all, especially the anticipation of the trip to the music store. A lot of forethought went into these trips. This is a typical example of the pre-trip deliberations going on in my head or with friends:

Q: Are you going to buy Led Zeppelin I or II?

A: I like more songs on Led Zeppelin II.

Q: Aren’t you kind of tired of it though? You’ve been listening to my copy a lot lately.

A: Ok, Led Zeppelin I it is.

Q: What if the store doesn’t have Led Zeppelin I?

A: Well, then maybe I’ll have to look at the new Cult album with “Fire Woman” on it.

Q: That’s a great song! Any other good songs on that album?

A: I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just stick with Led Zeppelin. Physical Graffiti is awesome.

Q: That’s a double disc. You have enough money?

A: Ooh. No. Well maybe I’ll get that Love and Rockets album. You know, the really good one.

Q: Earth, Sun, Moon. Yeah that’s great. You can almost never find that one in the store though. What if they don’t have it?

Recent Record Store Score, Led Zeppelin ll

Recent Record Store Score, Led Zeppelin ll

And on and on and on, until the fateful day that I made it to the music store and all that planning went completely out the window when I bought the last copy of Alice Cooper’s Trash album because they played the song “Poison” over the store’s overhead speakers.

The process was easier in the early 2000s as I got older and my musical tastes matured along with my wallet. It wasn’t unheard of for me to walk out of the store with 3-4 CDs. I often stuck to the old adage, “Something old (Al Green, Greatest Hits), something new (Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin), something borrowed (Used copy of The Sugarcubes, Stick Around For Joy) and something blue (John Coltrane, Blues Train.)

Things went on smoothly like this until I started relying more and more on my computer and iPod for entertainment. Pretty soon, I had any song in the world available to me. Complete discographies of forgotten artists could be on my hard drive in the click of a mouse. That’s when a different form of music collecting took over my life. I was a full on file hoarder. No amount of MP3s could satisfy my hunger. I downloaded album upon album of songs that I’ve still never listened to. If I ever feel a need to visit the collected works of Thin Lizzy, I can. That day probably won’t come but… you never know. Every now and then, I think that I should spend some time and clean up my disc drives but I can’t ever seem to delete many files. That copy of Everclear, So Much for the Afterglow isn’t hurting anything in there. I’ll probably never play it but again…you never know.

Up until last year, I still had many of my old CDs, cassette tapes and even a few albums I picked up along the way from friends and family.

MoSS? Todd digging for records at Vinyl Renaissance in Kansas City.

MoSS? Todd digging for records at Vinyl Renaissance in Kansas City.

Mostly, these items just collected dust in my basement. I had an old turntable but ended up giving it away to a relative in need. Knowing this info, my mother bought me a new turntable as an early Xmas present. I had a pretty good time spinning my old records but didn’t really think about collecting again. On a whim, I stopped into an old record store, actually it was the very store I used to buy all of my CDs back in the 90s. I asked the guy at the counter if they had any vinyl. He chuckled and waved his arms like Vanna White, drawing my attention to the entire store.

“Look around you, man. We have vinyl everywhere. Old. New. Whatever you want.”

He was right. They had it all. Before I knew it, I had spent an hour digging through record shelves and I was holding a stack of albums both new and used. The rest of the day I had an oddly pleasant feeling rooted back to my record store experience. I’d forgotten how fun it could be searching through the bins for anything that piqued my interest. I’d forgotten the excited feeling you get after you leave the store with your purchases. I’d forgotten how I always removed the items from the bag as soon as I got in my car and looked over the album cover and read the liner notes. Something had been awakened inside of me.

Digging

MoSS? Todd and MoSS? Todd Junior digging at Kiss the Sky Records in Batavia, IL

In the months since then, I’ve made multiple trips to different record stores. If I’m ever going to be out of town, I frequently look online the day before I leave to see if there are any stores in the area. In my travels, I’ve found that there are basically 3 types of stores:

1. The stores that have used albums at a decent price and sell new albums at ridiculously high prices.
2. The stores that have new albums at a decent price and sell used albums at ridiculously high prices.
3. The stores that reek of incense or patchouli and sell everything at a decent price.

All three types of store can suit your album collecting needs depending on what you are after. My favorite store is type #3. I prefer purchasing quantity over quality and have a high tolerance level for overpowering fragrances designed to mask the smell of the “sticky icky.”

Now to be clear, I’m not one of those hardcore audiophile weirdos. Many of the albums I buy are less than perfect. I don’t minds a few pops and hisses. The imperfections can actually make the listening experience a bit more enjoyable. I also don’t that think the MP3 is inferior or that vinyl is the one true audio format. I love technology as much or more than the next guy. My wireless SONOS system probably gets more use that my record player. Sometimes you can’t beat the ease and versatility of digital formats.

With Record Store Day 2014 is coming up this weekend, maybe this would be a good time for many of you readers out there to pop into your local record store (if you can find one) and dip your toe into the album collecting pool. (I really can’t recommend The War On Drugs, Lost in the Dream enough. Great sound on vinyl.) Like me, that one visit could be the spark that ignites an album buying habit you though had long been burnt out.

MoSS? Madness 2014. Best “Side One, Track One” Song: The Final Results

moss-mad-16 2014 finals

I can hardly believe it! I sat down to write a post about another Guns N Roses MoSS? Madness Championship. A victory that looked like a sure thing after checking the voting status last night. A victory that would have been heralded through all the land.  But I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. Today, while checking the final voting numbers, I discovered a massive influx of votes for Nirvana.  With 61% of the vote, this late run of support pushed “Smells Like Teen Spirit” into the lead for Nirvana’s first MoSS? Madness Championship!

Help us celebrate Nirvana’s win by watching the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video below and remembering just how kick-ass it really is as your favorite “Side One, Track One.”

Thank you all for voting. Unfortunately, now it’s back to the daily grind. Back to work with no silly competitions or brackets to distract us. You may be wondering,  “What will my bosses think when I’m all of the sudden productive at work again?”   I have the solution. If you feel as though you are doing too much work or maybe going above and beyond your normal daily tasks, stop what you are doing and watch this awesome shot-for-shot remake of the Bosom Buddies opening credits featuring Paul Rudd and Adam Scott. See you all next year!

MoSS? Madness 2014. Best “Side One, Track One” Song: The Finals

moss-mad-16 2014 finals

The Final 4 votes have been tallied and we are down to the last two songs! Neither of the match-ups were particularly close. Both winning songs collected roughly 75% of the votes. In the final round, Guns N Roses, “Welcome to the Jungle”  will match-up against Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Wow. This is going to be a tough decision.

Final round voting is now open. If you need a little help getting in the competitive spirit, watch this inspirational video from the movie Over the Top.  In this clip, formerly deadbeat father Sly Stallone competes for his son’s love and arm wresting glory in a tournament where “Winner Takes It All.” Don’t forget to vote after…

MoSS? Madness 2014. Best “Side One, Track One” Song: The Final 4

moss-mad-16 2014

The Elite 8 votes have been tallied and we are down to the Final 4 songs. We lost another #1 seed as #2 Rolling Stones bumped off Jimi Hendrix in the closest voting of the round. They will go up against Nirvana, who handily won their match-up against Led Zeppelin.  On the other side of the bracket, Prince advanced in yet another close match-up as he narrowly beat The Doors. He will go head to head with Guns n Roses in his bid to advance to the finals.

Final 4 voting is now open. If you need a little help getting in the competitive spirit, watch this inspirational video from the movie Bloodsport  in which a bevy of bloodthirsty martial artists  “Fight to Survive” the illegal underground tournament known as “The Kumite.” Look for cameos from Ogre, Forest Whitaker and the Jean Claude Van Damme testes squashing split. Don’t forget to vote after…

MoSS? Madness 2014. Best “Side One, Track One” Song: The Elite 8

moss-mad-16 2014

The votes are in and we only had one #1 seed get knocked off! The Beatles “A Hard Days Night” was beaten by The Doors “Break On Through” by one single vote. Wowzer. I know I was shocked. Many of the match-ups were quite close. Prince narrowly defeated The Smashing Pumpkins by 2 votes and Beck squeaked past The Ramones by just a few ballots.  You can see how valuable your votes are so keep it up and invite your friends to participate too.

If you thought the Sweet 16 round choices were difficult you will find the Elite 8 next to impossible. I think I am most looking forward to the match-up between last round’s two biggest vote getters, Nirvana’s  “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.”  It took me quite awhile to pick one. My advice to you, sit back, relax, listen to both songs with a cocktail and vote with your gut. Remember, there is no wrong choice (unless you pick opposite me.)

Elite 8 voting is now open. If you need a little help getting in the competitive spirit, watch this inspirational video from the movie Teen Wolf  in which a 5′ 2″ Michael J. Fox proves that he and his ragtag basketball team can “Win in the End” with suspect defensive skills and without special werewolf powers. Don’t forget to vote after…

MoSS? Madness 2014: Best “Side One, Track One” Song

moss-mad-16 2014

It’s time again baby! That’s right, the most exciting event since the invention of the bracket, MoSS? Madness 2014. This year we are keeping with the Sweet 16 model from last year. Why only 16? Well, many reasons. First, no early round snoozer match-ups. Who wants to sit through a bunch of blow outs before we get into the good stuff? Second, I’m lazy. I can only spend so much time at my PC using Google Docs and MS Paint for this stuff. Third, what’s with all the questions? Just go with it and mind your business.

This year you are going to be voting for your favorite “Side One, Track One” song. Not familiar with the term “Side One, Track One?” Remember back in the old days when we had to listen to albums and tapes? We’re talking about the rare instance when an artist or band kicks off side one of their album with a particularly great song. Most times (not all the time) this turns out to be the start of an excellent album as a whole. Others times the artist blows their wad right away and the rest of the album is,well, a turd.

With only 16 songs in the competition, many songs didn’t make the cut. Some of your favorites may not be on the mix. Can’t wait to hear about the ones we should have included. Really. Give us hell in the comments. You may be wondering, “How can one choose between such beloved classics as “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit?” A difficult task no doubt. You’ll have to figure that out if you want to help us crown the MoSS? Madness 2014 Champion.

Also, everyone should send their condolences to Chris. His Iowa Hawkeyes lost in their bid to get into the NCAA round of 64 last night. Valiant effort though boys. Now I expect you all to be cheering for my #3 seeded Iowa State Cyclones. Let’s go Clones! First things first, vote below!

MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever: Ineligible Albums and Those That Missed the Cut

We’re taking a little break from our Undisputed Top Albums Ever countdown during this busy holiday week. Instead, we are going to share with you a few albums that didn’t make the cut and a few albums that we’ve declared ineligible for selection. When we were first tasked with making these lists, we decided to limit our top 100 albums to proper releases. This meant no soundtracks, no live albums, no compilations etc. Some great material had to be omitted. Take a look at what didn’t make the cut. Your favorite record could be in there somewhere.

Don’t worry, the countdown continues next week with #20-16.

Chris’ 5 That Missed The Cut

Alice in Chains, Dirt

INXS, Kick

Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti

Nine Inch Nails, The Downward Spiral

Van Halen, 1984 

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

INXS, Kick

cover for kickOnce I realized that Kick was not in my top 100 albums, I nearly chucked all of my analysis out the window. Not sure how this one landed at #102, given how much I worshipped this album growing up. I swear my friend Jeff and I listened to this album 800 times one year, doing SWEET DANCE MOVES more often than not (and changing the lyrics to fit our ridiculous sense of humor…we won’t go into that here). I even bought an INXS t-shirt (and it was tie-dye, naturally).

This was a more overall satisfying disc compared with Listen Like Thieves or The Swing, with song after song tailor made for modern radio but dissimilar from one another as well. “New Sensation” sounded nothing like “Devil Inside,” which sounded nothing like “Need You Tonight,” and then there was the one with the strings (“Never Tear Us Apart”). And then you had the leadoff track, “Guns in the Sky,” which is probably a bit flimsy as far as political commentary goes but sounded pretty kick-ass back then. And that monotone rhyming thing on “Mediate” was pretty cool…

Anyway, listen to my favorite song from the album below.

Chris’ 5 Ineligible Albums, Soundtracks or Live Albums

Descendents, Liveage!

Ramones, Hey! Ho! Let’s Go!: The Anthology

Wings, Wings Over America

Various artists, Pulp Fiction soundtrack

Various artists, No Alternative

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

Descendents, Liveage!

cover for liveageOne of the albums that created the era known as BMCJMMC (Before My Cousin Josh Made Me Cooler) was this wonderful 20-song blast of live ’80s punk by Descendents. (You can’t go wrong with the studio compilation, Somery, either.) Now, granted, my 13-year-old ears perked right up once opening track* “I’m Not a Loser” unleashed an avalanche of profanity (the last four lines or so are right in the wheelhouse of a junior high kid). But once I finally stopped laughing and rewinding that song (yep, cassette era), I discovered some of the greatest punk/pop moments from a band that had street cred.

(* – technically, the first track is the one word/one note blast called “All”)

The music is tight, lean, and full of wonderful lyric topics like suburban homes and funky vans that function as homes and silly girls and not being a cool guy anymore and wanting time to woo a woman and, um, dumb stuff like “I Wanna Be a Bear” and “Weinerschnitzel.” I remember Josh and I figured the singer, Milo, was probably lying in a drug-induced coma in some gutter somewhere, when it turns out he holds a doctorate in biochemistry. Milo Goes to College, indeed. Listen to “Silly Girl” below…

Todd’s 5 That Missed The Cut

Frank Ocean, Nostalgia Ultra

U2, Achtung Baby

Massive Attack, Protection

Pixies, Bossanova

M83, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

Frank Ocean, Nostalgia Ultra

I had two issues with this record being on the list.

Issue #1. It was too new. I have a very hard time ranking an album that is only a year old in my top 100. I need time to really decide if it is worthy. Check with me in two years and I bet it will make the cut. In the meantime, watch out Bjork, Frank is coming to take your spot.

Issue #2. That fucking “American Wedding” catastrophe near the end of the album. It’s basically him singing over the music of The Eagles “Hotel California.” A song I loath. Don Henley threatened to sue Frank Ocean if he didn’t quit sing the song. I think the world should threaten to sue Don Henley if he doesn’t stop singing it.

Here’s an example of a good song from the album.

Todd’s 5 Ineligible Albums, Soundtracks or Live Albums

Guns N’ Roses, Live Era ’87-’93

Fleetwood Mac, The Dance

Various Artists, Grosse Pointe Blank Soundtrack

Various Artists, Once (Music from the Motion Picture)

Various Artists, Singles Soundtrack

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

Gross Point Blank Soundtrack

I know this soundtrack is really just an ’80s music playlist but I love it. So many great artists on it. Violent Femmes, Guns N’ Roses, The Clash, Queen with David Bowie. How can you go wrong? Not only are the artists great but the songs they chose by those artists are some of my all time favorites. Examples: Queen’s “Under Pressure”(Not Rob Van Winkle’s “Ice Ice Baby”), The Clash’s “Rudy Can’t Fail” and one my top five favorite songs ever “Pressure Drop.” Many people have covered this Toots and the Maytals classic. The Clash actually have an A+ cover version that I love. My favorite version is on this soundtrack and it is done by legendary ska band The Specials.  Check it out below.

Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

#80-71

#70-61

#60-51

#50-41

#40-31

#30-21

MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #30-21

Yep, we’re making a list. Two separate lists, actually, so the above graphic is a bit misleading. Accounting for the limited overlap in Todd’s and Chris’ lists, it’s more like the top 174 or something like that.

Anyway, after months of scientific analysis, hours of listening and re-listening to albums from years gone by, we have arrived at a definitive list of the top albums ever recorded. Our research is not open to interpretation, but you’re more than welcome to complain about the fact that your favorite albums aren’t on this list; we’ll simply respond by telling you that your favorite records aren’t really all that good.

Here are some spoilers: you’re not going to find the typical hipster stuff like Neutral Milk Hotel or Slint or even stuff one/both of us actually likes such as DJ Shadow or Pavement. This isn’t Rolling Stone so you’re not going to find Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or Pet Sounds at the top. Wham’s Make It Big was snubbed.

We’re not going to roll it all out at once; no sense rushing through all this quality music! But Music or Space Shuttle? is gonna be pretty busy over the next two months.

That’s enough of an intro. Let’s get on with it…

Chris’ #30-21

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

30. Interpol, Antics

29. School of Seven Bells, Alpinisms

28. Vampire Weekend, Contra

27. Prince and the Revolution, Purple Rain

26. The White Stripes, Elephant

25. The Cure, The Head on the Door

24. Nirvana, In Utero

23. The Radio Dept., Pet Grief

22. Crystal Castles, Crystal Castles (a.k.a. II)

21. Pink Floyd, The Wall

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#27: Prince & the Revolution, Purple Rain

cover for Purple RainCan you recite the opening lines of “Let’s Go Crazy”?

Of course you can. My co-worker Tom (the one who writes) prides himself on it. Every now and then we’ll talk about music and somehow, either through my prompt or his way of steering the conversation, he’ll rattle them off (often double-timing it just to show how awesome he is):

Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today to get through this thing called “life”
Electric word, life; that means forever and that’s a mighty long time
But I’m here to tell ya, there’s something else:
The afterworld
A world of neverending happiness
You can always see the sun
Day
Or night
So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills
You know the one
Dr. Everything’ll Be All Right
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left
Ask him how much of your mind, baby
Cause in this life, things are much harder than the afterworld
This life…you’re on your own

(I realized after I typed that up that I didn’t use the letter “U” every time the word “you” is used. Or the numeral 2 instead of the word “to.” An oversight for which I have no apology.)

If John Lennon had been alive in 1984 and heard this opening track, he would have turned to Yoko and said, “Did you hear the way that guy in purple started off his new album? Much cooler than ‘I dig a pygmy by Charles Hawtrey and the Deaf-Aids! Phase one, in which Doris gets her oats,’ innit?”

“Let’s Go Crazy” is one of the three 45RPM records I have from Purple Rain; I didn’t even own the album in its entirety for probably two years after its release. I had a third of it already, along with the sweet b-sides like “Erotic City” (they say “fuck” on that one, Tipper!). I also had “When Doves Cry,” the song that occasionally prompts a re-enactment of the video in my office to the chagrin of my officemate. (I’ve got that crawling-across-the-floor move down.) And he might refute it now, but I clearly remember my dad coming downstairs while I was listening to my records and asking, “What Prince songs do you have?” I showed him Doves and Crazy, he frowned, then said, “So you don’t have the ‘Purple Rain’ song?” After my next trip to Pamida, I did. “Purple Rain”: kid tested, dad approved.

I really had no interest in getting the album as a whole until I heard about “Darling Nikki” and all its lyrical glory. Not from my friends or the older kids in the neighborhood or at school; no, I read a big article in the Des Moines Register about the PMRC and Tipper Gore and the attempts to keep the smut out of the hands of kids. All because Tipper heard the “masturbating with a magazine” line in “Nikki” and lost her shit. Before long, Washington wives were making a list of the “Filthy Fifteen” (which included “She Bop” by Cyndi Lauper*) and dudes like Dee Snider and Frank Zappa were testifying before Congress. But it was John Denver who put it best in his testimony: “That which is denied becomes that which is most desired, and that which is hidden becomes that which is most interesting. Consequently, a great deal of time and energy is spent trying to get at what is being kept from you.” Yep, as soon as I read about all of this nonsense, I couldn’t wait to get the whole album.

And it was a good thing, as I discovered a treasure trove of later singles that I hadn’t bought on 45 like “Take Me With U” and great album cuts like “Baby I’m A Star.” And much to Tipper’s disappointment, I never became a depraved sex fiend after hearing “Darling Nikki” and I didn’t join the occult after listening to Slayer and I didn’t kill myself after listening to Suicide and I didn’t kill any cops after listening to Body Count or Ice-T or N.W.A.

But I loved this Prince album. Still do.

(* – “She Bop” was flagged for masturbation references. Masturbation was the furthest thing from my mind whenever I heard/saw Cyndi Lauper.)

#22: Crystal Castles, II

album cover for Crystal Castles IITwo years ago, I came down with some strain of flu (avian, swine, whatever) and found myself lying listless for about a week straight. I was too tired to read, too woozy to get out and about…I couldn’t even play video games, which was a red flag that something was definitely wrong.

So how did I spend all that recovery time? Listening to an album with songs called “Fainting Spells,” “Suffocation,” “Violent Dreams,” and “Pap Smear.” And finding my favorite album of 2010 in the process.

The band that had the coolest 8-bit sound around, quite evident on the eponymous debut that came out two years previous, suddenly decided to take the tunes in a shoegaze direction (with an electronic twinge, of course). And it was beautiful. Songs like “Celestica” and “Suffocation” (despite the gloomy title) soared thanks to Alice Glass’ actual singing (!!!) and the keyboard chords created by Ethan Kath. No longer were these two relying solely on piercing, mutated screams and Donkey Kong samples to create art. (Although that was cool too.)

Whether it was the thumping beat and impassioned howls of “Baptism” or the shrewd use of a Sigur Ros sample in “Year of Silence” or the whirling whiplash of “Pap Smear” (I know, these aren’t the most appetizing titles, but the songs themselves aren’t 1/1000th as nauseating as songs bearing benign titles like “Moves Like Jagger” or whatever geeks like One Direction call their songs) or the brilliant use of Robert Smith vocals on “Not in Love.” For people yearning for the chaos of the first album, there are cuts like “Doe Deer” and “Fainting Spells.” “Intimate” provides the dance-floor crowd something to devour, and, um, weirdos everywhere could rally around the generally spaced-out “I Am Made of Chalk.”

There’s something sinister about each of these songs; sometimes it’s evident, sometimes not. Even the gorgeous “Celestica” has a dark side: the song was inspired by an incident at a Celestica plant (it’s a plastics company in Canada, apparently) where an employee fell into a boiling vat and died.

On that note, I hope you all catch swine flu and spend a week listening to this masterpiece.

Todd’s #30-21

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

30. Jane’s Addiction, Nothing’s Shocking

29. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs

28. Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti

27. Smashing Pumpkins, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

26. Prince and the Revolution, Parade

25. Beastie Boys, Check Your Head

24. Pixies, Trompe le Monde

23. The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow

22. The Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin

21. Depeche Mode, Violator

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#26. Prince and the Revolution, Parade

This was the first Prince album that I ever got. Not to say it was the first I’d ever listened to. I had dubbed copies of other Prince albums from my older brother who was a big fan. Parade was the first one that I actually went to the store and picked out. My parents let my brother and me each pick out something from the music section at the local Target store. This was a rare occasion so I took a rather long time deliberating over many options. I believe at one point I had three tapes picked out and had the plastic security doohickeys around my wrist.

Remember those things? So many times I remember perusing the music bins of Musicland or Disc Jockey spinning one of those around my wrist as I looked. I sort of miss going to record stores. It made the album selection process more important. If you were going to leave the house, find a record store and then plop down the majority of your hard earned cash on an album, you wanted it to be good. Not just one or two songs good and the rest crap. Believe me, I bought a ton of those over the years.

I’m pretty sure my brother picked his tape right off. He chose INXS, Listen Like Thieves. (In itself a great album that I briefly considered putting on this list. Unfortunately, it did not meet all the strict requirements to make the final cut) Based upon his aggravated looks and comments, I’m sure my brother was getting pretty annoyed with me because I couldn’t make up my mind. Around my wrist I had:

Peter Gabriel, So. (Great album that made this list at #37)

Pet Shop Boys, Please (Good album but never considered for this list)

Prince and the Revolution, Parade (So incredibly good that it should be on everyone’s list)

Apparently, I was shopping exclusively in the P’s section of the store. After flip flopping on my decision for twenty minutes or so, my brother made the decision easy. He looked at my selections and said “It’s not that hard. That’s dumb (Peter Gabriel), that’s stupid (Pet Shop Boys), and that’s Prince. Put that other shit back and let’s go.” So that’s what I did. I just needed a little push in any direction. If he would have said Peter Gabriel was the better choice I probably would have taken that one home.

Prince turned out to be the right choice as I learned later. I ended up getting both of those other tapes at subsequent visits to the store. Parade got way more plays on my boombox. Is there a lesson here? Yes. Two lessons.

Lesson 1: Listen to your older siblings. They may seem like they’re being jerks sometimes but they are actually secretly looking out for you.

Lesson 2: “That’s dumb, that’s stupid, that’s Prince.” Words to live by.

#24. Pixies, Trompe le Monde

Back when I was in high school, I would spend my Sunday nights not going to bed early and preparing for a new week at school, but instead staying up late listening to a radio station broadcasting from the middle of a corn field near Muscatine, Iowa. Specifically, a show called “Off the Beaten Track.” They played all kinds of early alternative and college rock. I heard many of my all time favorite bands for the first time listening to that show. The DJs were Mary of the Heartland and some dude named Roberto. (Roberto will come into play in some of the upcoming album blurbs.) I used to put a fresh cassette tape in my radio/tape player/CD player and listen as long as I could until I fell asleep. The next day I would rewind the tape and listen to what I missed.

After the show, they would premiere a newly released record in its entirety. I could catch most of that on the same tape if I stayed up late enough to flip it over. It was a great way to get a new album for free if you had the time and a crap ton of blank tapes. On one of those nights, they played The Pixies, Trompe le Monde. It was the first Pixies album that I’d ever heard. From the start of the title track I was confused and blown away at the same time. Was it punk? Was it surfer rock? The next song “Planet of Sound” played more like a metal song with Black Francis’ screaming vocals. The next song, “Alec Eiffel”, went back to surfer-punk, well kind of, because they sneak in a keyboard part at the end. Then, they really confused me by throwing in a cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain song “Head On.”  They were all over the map and I loved it. And I didn’t even have to buy it!

I still have a weird reaction when I listen to the last song “The Navajo Know.”  My tape cut off right in the middle.

Upon construction
there is the Mohawk
his way of walking
quite high above the ground
fearless of looking down
skywalk
some people say that
[click]…

Years later, I bought Trompe le Monde on CD. For quite awhile, I would still expect the song to end at that point. It took me a long time not to anticipate the abrupt ending. At least I finally got to hear the last of the lyrics and learn “what some people say.”

some people say that…

the Navajo know
a way of walking
quite high above the ground
fearless of looking down
oh no.

Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

#80-71

#70-61

#60-51

#50-41

#40-31

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Some content on this page was disabled on May 7, 2016 as a result of a DMCA takedown notice from PRS for Music. You can learn more about the DMCA here:

https://en.support.wordpress.com/copyright-and-the-dmca/