Great moments in music history: The Flash Gordon soundtrack

QueenI caught a matinee of Interstellar yesterday, yet another excellent effort from Christopher Nolan. But the movie itself isn’t what struck a nerve. No, it was a musical cue that lasted for all of about two seconds during one of the film’s climactic scenes and wound up being a false alarm.

I won’t spoil the film for anyone, but as Mr. McConaughey’s [redacted] [redacted] into [redacted], I swear the film’s score, for about a millisecond, sounded just like the well-synthesized section of “In the Space Capsule,” the love theme from that other cinematic sci-fi masterpiece, Flash Gordon.

I wouldn’t have thought too much about it, but I’ve had Queen on the brain ALL weekend. After I got off work late Friday night, I came home to find Queen Live Montreal playing on Palladia at 3 in the morning. It was majestic, and it just reminded me of how I wish I could’ve been a teenager in the late ’70s so I could have seen this band in all its cinematic glory. Alas, it was not to be. Rest in peace, Freddie Mercury.

Soundtrack coverBut for a band with enough stadium-rocking anthems … that will, that will … rock you, it was their soundtrack to a cheesy sci-fi movie that came out when I was in first grade that was mind-altering.

I was 7 years old when that movie came out, and I’m fairly certain my mom’s best friend Kathy took my brother and me to see it on opening night. And considering a 7-year-old hasn’t quite developed a Gene Siskel-esque eye for fine cinema, I pretty much thought it was the greatest fucking movie I had ever seen that didn’t have the words “Star” or “Wars” or “Pete’s” or “Dragon” in the title. It wasn’t until I was much older – ninth grade or so – that I rode my bike out to the mall and rented it on VHS and realized it was a piece of shit.

But what an entertaining piece of shit!

1980 Flash Gordon Football Trading CardI mean, when I was 7, I was just captivated by the landscapes that pretty much looked like a bowl of water with a bunch of swirled food coloring. And spaceships!. And lizard men with their eyeballs in their mouths! And dudes with blue blood! And green blood! And Hawkmen!

(Something that I didn’t realize was hilarious until much, much later: the character Flash Gordon was the star quarterback of the New York Jets. I like to imagine him as the heir apparent to Joe Namath, but then he suddenly vanished from the face of the earth, which means they STILL drafted Ken O’Brien over Dan Marino in the ’83 draft. Even in the realm of sci-fi/fantasy, the Jets still suck.)

Anyway, it wasn’t until I was 15 that I realized what was actually appealing were the chicks. The planet Mongo had a thing for draping all its royalty in pink spandex (or less). Better to be comfortable and sexy than regal.

Princess Aura

This is what I was too young to appreciate at age 7

 

Clearly, in the year 4000, we will have shag carpet from ceiling to floor.

Clearly, the year 4000 will have shag carpet on the walls.

(And while we’re at it, I wish I could still be around for the 40th century, since – as Barbarella taught us – we can get ourselves off with the Orgasmatron in a world that looks like Austin Powers’ Electric Psychedelic Pussycat Swingers Club. So 2,000 years from now, the universe will look like swinging London in 1968? Awesome!)

But, rightfully so, the legacy of Flash Gordon is its kick-ass soundtrack. I got it for Christmas that year as a gift from Kathy’s brother Jeff (who was also a de facto big brother to my brother and me, complete with the cool car and the playful bullying … 12 years older than us, he used to hold us down and dangle spit about two inches from our screaming faces as we thrashed around like marlins on a giant fish hook. I can only hope to have a son of my own someday to bust this move out on).

That record was a proud edition to my ever-growing music collection, which consisted of my mom and Kathy’s discarded 8-track mixtapes, as well as my own Fisher-Price record player, with Kiss’ Rock and Roll Over and a pile of 45s that included “Disco Duck,” “Convoy,” “Boogie Oogie Oogie,” “Brick House,” “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” and a double-A-side of “Hot Blooded/Double Vision.”

I can’t think of a better album for the attention span of a 7-year-old. A bunch of minute-long bursts of rock guitar and synthesizers, interspersed throughout with the laser blast sound effects and cheesy dialogue (delivered by the dudes better known as Father Merrin from The Exorcist, the Fiddler on the Roof, James Bond IV, and a magnificent Shakespearian stage legend whose booming voice is unfortunately best remembered for this ):

It really was the next best thing to having the movie in the days before VCRs were plentiful. And bookending the album were two actual SONGS – the bumping “Flash’s Theme,” featuring Roger Taylor’s pulsating drums, and “The Hero,” which is pure Brian May guitar bliss followed by the soundtrack’s overture.

What would’ve happened if I’d gotten, say, the Star Wars soundtrack instead? Orchestra? At age 7? No, instead I got to soak up the bombastic riffs. I was on my way.

Eventually, I got into Queen for real. Queen’s Greatest Hits (arguably THE greatest greatest-hits album of all time … fuck the Eagles) was the go-to cassette in my Walkman when I did my paper route for a year. Yes, I was in up to my eyeballs with Queen before Wayne, Garth, and the Mirth Mobile drove “Bohemian Rhapsody” to the top of the charts during my senior year of high school, 17 years after its initial release.

Queen had more soundtrack success after that, with its contributions to Highlander and that triumphant moment when Nerd Persecution ended and Lewis the Nerd stole the hot cheerleader away from the dastardly Alpha Betas, all to the strains of “We Are The Champions,” in Revenge of the Nerds.

But nothing was quite like THAT soundtrack. I finally bought it on CD when I was in college, and I once briefly considered putting it on as sex music (have you heard “In the Death Cell,” “Execution of Flash,” and “The Kiss” back to back to back? They’re really quite dreamy), but I figured Prince Vultan bellowing “GORDON’S ALIVE?!?!” might spoil the moment. I instead chose to romance the lucky lady with a combination of Dark Side of the Moon and Santana’s Abraxas. Ah, the art of seduction (there really is nothing like “Oye Como Va” to set the lovemaking mood. Oh, alternative women at the UI in the ’90s, I love and miss you all).

And when it still pops up in pop culture, it makes me giddy. I’ll never forget sitting in the theater and clapping like one of those toy monkeys that crashes cymbals when it showed up in the wildly-underrated, pitch-black comedy Observe and Report (it was basically Taxi Driver but as vehicle for dark humor), as Seth Rogen’s schlub, comedically-psychotic mall cop beats the shit out of a bunch of real cops with his flashlight, all to the majestic flourishes of Flash’s “Battle Theme” and “The Hero”:

And, of course … Ted:

Next year will be the 35th anniversary of the release of the Flash Gordon soundtrack. Since Queen is still putting out new records under the Queen moniker (just this week, they released Queen Forever, featuring long-lost discarded tracks featuring both the late Freddie Mercury and their long-retired bassist John Deacon), my hope is that they’ll revisit Flash Gordon, stripping out all the dialogue and unnecessary sound effects and giving us just the music in its purest form. I’d scoop that shit up on the first day.

I mean, Interstellar was awesome and all, but it didn’t have Queen. Oh well, nobody’s perfect, not even Christopher Nolan.

Let us know what you think. Sound off in the comments, or have your say on our Facebook page. Or yell at us on Twitter.

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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:

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MoSS? Presents… The Undisputed Top Albums Ever, #50-41

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’ #50-41

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

50. Guns n’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction

49. Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon

48. Sigur Ros, Takk…

47. The Radio Dept., Clinging to a Scheme

46. Sleigh Bells, Treats

45. Led Zeppelin, II

44. The Sugarcubes, Life’s Too Good

43. Beck, Odelay!

42. Arcade Fire, Funeral

41. Danger Mouse, The Grey Album

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#45: Led Zeppelin, II

cover for Led Zeppelin IIWhen I was in eighth grade, I ended up buying one of those “special issues” of Rolling Stone; this particular one listed something like the 100 greatest albums of all time (sound familiar?). I was thumbing through it while riding in my dad’s truck; he kept glancing over and saying, “I have that one. I have that one. I have that one too.”

So as soon as we got home, I went downstairs and started looking through my dad’s vinyl collection. Indeed, my dad had some cool stuff: Beatles, Hendrix, Velvet Underground, Rolling Stones, Wings Over America, and one album by Led Zeppelin. Where to start?

I’d heard plenty of Beatles at this point, so I set them aside for the time being. I finally picked a criterion for what I would listen to: which band adorned the most T-shirts in my junior high school? Zeppelin was the clear winner: the studs, the stoners, and the geeks all represented Led Zep across their chests.

So when I went to bed that night, I put the LP on the turntable (yes, I had a record player in my room in 1987), plugged in my over-the-ear headphones, and lay down to take it all in.

Whoa, dude.

The stuttering riff of “Whole Lotta Love” filled my ears. Plant shrieked something about how I need coolin’ (he wasn’t foolin’). The song thundered forward, and then hit the part where the music spiraled around my head (the headphones made the music exponentially cooler) and Plant let loose with his howls. As soon as the song ended (or, more accurately, faded out), I jumped out of bed, moved the needle back to the beginning, and found myself air guitaring and lip-syncing the shit out of my new favorite song. I also hoped I would find time at school the next day to chat up any of the 73 guys who would undoubtedly have on their Swan Song or “Lantern Man” or Hindenburg shirts, to let them know that “I get it, man!”

The album is more than “Whole Lotta Love,” of course. “What Is and What Should Never Be” finds a nice groove; “The Lemon Song” gets all sorts of bluesy; “Ramble On” has that acoustic guitar/quirky percussion/whimsical Plant vocal that eventually roars into the chorus before settling back down into chill and so on (the quiet-LOUD-quiet dynamic we like in so many bands from the ’80s and ’90s). And don’t forget the drum solo song (“Moby Dick”) or the “guitar hero” song (“Heartbreaker”).

It’s the only Zeppelin album in my dad’s LP collection; my turntable needle deepened the groove in my dad’s record after repeated plays. I guess if you’re only going to own one Led Zep album, you can’t go wrong with II.

#41: Danger Mouse, The Grey Album

cover image for The Grey AlbumFirst off: you’ll be seeing “The White Album” on this list in due time.

Second: Jay-Z’s The Black Album is really pretty terrible. Not the raps, necessarily, but the backing beats and music are cheesy as shit. So melodramatic, so shiny, so…I don’t know…I’m going to go back to terrible. Which is too bad, because there’s some quotable lines throughout this album.

That’s why Danger Mouse has done Hova a big favor by blending White and Black and making Grey. (I think Jay-Z knew his words needed some inspired music behind them, as he released an a cappella version of the album in hopes that artists would remix it.) Danger Mouse, who at this point wasn’t producing Gorillaz or Beck or doing his Gnarls Barkley thing, spent weeks (months?) stitching together samples from the Beatles’ eponymous double album (including meticulous sampling of Ringo Starr’s drums, which he sequenced into something much heavier/hipper than Mr. Starkey ever banged out) to go along with Jay-Z’s vocals.

And it worked. Boy, does it work.

Keep in mind: mashups were, for the most part, little more than humorous juxtapositions at this point. Even the good ones were curious pairings: Nirvana and Destiny’s Child (“Smells Like Bootylicious”) or the Strokes and Christina Aguilera (“A Stroke of Genie-us”). This was also before Girl Talk dropped Night Ripper and Feed the Animals and took the mashup to the extreme. But Danger Mouse’s work, despite using two well-known quantities, felt natural. Yeah, I’d heard “99 Problems” before, and of course I’d heard the guitar and backing vocals from “Helter Skelter” a zillion times, but hearing these familiar elements together didn’t feel ridiculous. In fact, it sort of made the statement that the Beatles were kinda badass and would fit well underneath the self-appointed best rapper alive.

The frenzied samples from “Glass Onion” and “Savoy Truffle” are an infinitely better accompaniment to “Encore” than the shit Jay-Z used on his album (or anything Linkin Park had to do with that song, for that matter). And instead of some stupid Russell Crowe sample on “What More Can I Say,” Danger Mouse throws mad breakbeat and a slowed down version of the guitar from “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” underneath Jay’s lament.

And then there’s “December 4th,” an oral history of Jay’s life complemented with a few thoughts from Jay’s mom. On The Black Album, this song is shackled with some of the worst backing tracks I’ve ever heard. Like something straight out of a 1977 discotheque (and not in a good way like some of the stuff used in Boogie Nights) or AM radio. Danger Mouse could have improved this song in his sleep, but he went beyond and delivered goods on the other end of the spectrum. Spotting the emotional potential of the lyrics, he pairs the verses with the  touching guitar flourishes from “Mother Nature’s Son,” and concocts a drum beat to propel the song without overwhelming. Whenever I would play the Danger Mouse version in the car, Tracy would comment, “This song is so sad.” Imagine saying that about Jay’s original version, outside of saying “What a sad excuse for a song this is!”

The Grey Album elevates Jay-Z’s verses to new heights, and it does nothing to harm the integrity of the original Beatles material. Even Jay-Z and Paul McCartney think it’s pretty cool. They’re right.

Todd’s #50-41

(click play button below to sample these 10 albums)

50. Interpol, Turn On the Bright Lights

49. The Sundays, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic

48. Paul Simon, Graceland

47. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blood Sugar Sex Magik

46. Cypress Hill, Cypress Hill

45. Catherine, Hot Saki and Bedtime Stories

44. Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News

43. Beck, Midnight Vultures

42. Simon and Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water

41. Massive Attack, Mezzanine

A CLOSER LOOK AT…

#44. Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News

 Admittedly, I was late to the party with Modest Mouse. Hipsters that loved Modest Mouse from the beginning would tell you that Good News was the start of their musical downfall, but that’s just the standard hipster backlash towards a band that shows a bit of success. This is how a typical conversation would go with a true hipster.

Me: Hey, there Mr. Hipster. Nice skinny jeans. What are your thoughts on the group [insert indie band name here]?

Mr. Hipster: (disinterested, barely audible voice) Uhhh…just a sec…(finishing text to hipster friend)…I really liked their early stuff. I don’t like anything they did on [insert major record label name here].

Me: Thanks. Love the fedora. Douche.

That being said, I guess I started liking Modest Mouse after their musical downfall. I didn’t really listen to them until the summer of ’04 when Good News came out. “Float On” was my song of the summer that year. My wife and I were expecting our first child and also preparing to move to a new city for work.

A piece of advice for all you future fathers out there: Don’t knock up your old lady and then take a new job that requires you to move while she is 7-9 months pregnant. I’ve done that twice. Take it from me, it does not make your already stressed wife happy.

On Labor Day weekend that year, we were to close on our house in the new town.  Now my wife was due any second at this point, a sane person would not have driven her 2 hours away from her doctor. Unfortunately, we were on a time table which required her to travel.

We closed on the new house on Saturday and decided to stay there for a couple of days. The plan was to go back to our other house after the weekend, she would have the baby and then we would permanently move a few weeks later. Man we were good. We had it all figured out. My daughter must have been listening from the womb laughing.

I was sound asleep that night when my wife woke me up complaining of stabbing pains in the “baby maker.” (My words not hers) It was go time! The countdown to baby had begun. I grabbed our bags and we hightailed it out of there. After I made her swear she would not give birth in my new truck, I drove like crazy back home.

The trip went by fast as my mind raced and fears of being a father swirled around in my head. Good News played over the car stereo the whole time and helped to soothe my nerves a bit. It took me an hour and a half to get us back home. Almost exactly the same amount of time it takes to listen to Good News in its entirety twice. My unborn daughter was really having fun with us because after that panicked drive home, she decided to wait two days to make her entrance into the world. Perhaps she was just preparing us for the many sleepless nights to come.

#42. Simon and Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water

I truly didn’t expect to be writing about Simon and Garfunkel in this set of 10 albums. After my plea for a reunion of The Sundays back at #70, I figured I would be regaling you all with stories of adoration for my #49 selection, The Sundays Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. I was also hoping to announce that the first release from our new label, Music or Space Shuttle? Productions, would be the long awaited fourth album by The Sundays. Sadly, there has been no response on their end.

So, I’m writing instead about another rock duo that is no longer making music together. I will not be making any pleas for this pair to reunite. Not with their shaky past. Hell, Paul Simon is over 70 years old now. If he doesn’t want to hang with “The Funkel” anymore, fine. I won’t push it. I first came across Bridge Over Troubled Water around the age of 12 while going through my parent’s record collection. Back then, I really only liked a few songs like “The Boxer”, “Bye Bye Love” and “Cecilia.”

Side note on “Cecilia”: It seems as though “Cecilia” has turned into a drunken party anthem over the years. Walking home from the bar in college I would heard entire fraternity and sorority houses singing along while the house shook from that distinctive drum beat.

Cecilia, you’re breaking my heart
You’re shaking my confidence daily
Oh, Cecilia, I’m down on my knees
I’m begging you please to come home

Many was the time I queued up that little romp as a party was getting into full swing at my apartment. People love it. Next to Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl”, there wasn’t a better song to get people in the mood for a drunken sing-along.

It wasn’t until years later during a road trip with my mother that I took notice of the rest of the album. She had just bought Bridge Over Troubled Water on cassette tape. I guess I know where I got my love of music because like her, I have purchased certain albums on every available format from vinyl to tape to CD to MP3. The song, “The Only Living Boy in New York”, in particular was one that stood out for me. I probably rewound that song 10 times during the car trip. My mother must a have taken note, because I came home from school a few days later and found a copy of Bridge Over Troubled Water sitting on my bed. Pretty cool surprise for a music geek.

I’m sure she just got a kick out of me getting into her music. As a parent myself now, I can’t wait until my kids start to show an interest in music from my generation. I’m going to make sure and do the same thing as my Mom. Hell, I’ll put the entire discography of The Cure on their beds at the slightest hint of interest. I’m going to be the annoying music pusher Dad. Can’t push too hard though. It may have the opposite effect and they’ll wind up listening to…shudder…country music.


Previous installments:

#100-91

#90-81

#80-71

#70-61

#60-51

Original vs Cover: “Head On”

Is imitation the highest form of flattery? It can be. Take the cover song for instance. Nothing is more polarizing in music. The artist that covers a song either makes the song their own or totally misses the boat. There is rarely an in-between. Have you ever listened to a cover song and thought “That was OK I guess”? The answer is no, you haven’t. It’s either ” That was great” or “That really sucked “.

This is an example of a very bad cover song. Careful. Not for the squeamish:

What can a person say after witnessing such a catastrophe? My sincerest condolences to Pink Floyd fans. If we all stick together, we can get past this. Move on but never forget.

One of my favorite songs is The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On”. It might be in Todd’s Top 10 Songs of All Time list. Well…that may be tough to commit to. Maybe my top 100. It’s at least in my top 1000 of all time. How about this…it’s in my “Top 10 Songs of All Time Compiled on August 15th, 2012 at 5:15 P.M. CT”. That list may change tomorrow or as soon as another song plays on my iPod.

Back to the matter at hand, The Pixies included a cover version of “Head On” on there final full length album, Trompe le Monde. My Pixies obsession has been well documented on this blog so you can guess that I love their cover as much as the original song (Oddly enough, the Pixies version is not on any of my “Tops of All Times” lists. There are very specific rules governing these lists and at this time cover versions are strictly verboten. Legislation is being drafted right now that would allow their future inclusion. Contact your local governing body to voice your support). In their version, Black Francis and the Pixies gang decided to crank up the volume a bit. In doing so they changed the over feel of the song from dark and moody to frantic and angry.

Take a listen to both and tell us which you prefer in the poll at the bottom.The Original or The Cover?

The Jesus and Mary Chain original.

The Pixies cover.

MoSS? Madness 2012: The Sweet 16

The Cinderella story continues! Thanks to your votes Pearl Jam (again by a single vote) was victorious over David Bowie to move into the Sweet 16.  #15 seeds Smashing Pumpkins and The Cure also dominated in their respective match-ups to move on to the next round. The remaining #1 seeds all won their pairings and look to remain undefeated. Can Pearl Jam prolong this amazing run through to the Elite 8? Will we lose a second #1 seed? I think even Pink Floyd would vote against Pink Floyd in their upcoming match-up against The Beatles. Now it is up to you, the readers, to decide. All four regions’ match-ups are ready to go. Please make your selections below.

MoSS? Madness 2012: The Round of 32 Results

The Cinderella story continues! Thanks to your votes Pearl Jam, again by a single vote, was victorious over David Bowie to move into the Sweet 16.  #15 seeds Smashing Pumpkins and The Cure also dominated in their respective match-ups to move on to the next round. The remaining #1 seeds all won their pairings and look to remain undefeated when the voting for the MoSS? Madness Sweet 16 begins on Thursday. Click on the bracket above to see which other artists moved on.

Again, thanks for voting. It’s been a long 4 days of basketball, brackets and ridiculous musical death matches. You may find it hard to go back to your normal lives again. Do you actually have to WORK at the office now? The answer is no. Please view this youtube clip from the movie Teen Wolf  to help keep you distracted from your daily tasks.

MoSS? Madness 2012: The Round of 32

Thanks to your votes the impossible happened. A #1 lost to a #16 in March! That’s right, by one single vote, Pearl Jam handed Elvis Presley a first round defeat. That wasn’t the only highly ranked artist to get knocked out in the first round. Much like Hampton over Iowa State (That one still stings), 2 seeds were dropping like flies. My beloved Smashing Pumpkins easily handled rock and roll legend Chuck Berry.  The Cure squeaked out a 1 vote victory over  “Soul Brother Number One” James Brown (Chris should be very pleased). Nine Inch Nails narrowly escaped their pairing with Little Richard. The only victorious #2 was guitar god Jimi Hendrix who put a beat down on Journey. I guess you can stop believin’ now Steve Perry.

The upcoming Round of 32 should be equally as exciting. There are going to be some great match-ups. Can the straight forward hard rock of Van Halen prevail over Metallica’s overpowering heavy metal? Can Pearl Jam pull off another Cinderella-style victory and beat glam rock icon David Bowie for a spot in the Sweet 16? You, the readers, will decide. All four regions’ match-ups are ready to go. Please make your selections below.

MoSS? Madness 2012: The Round of 64

The match-ups for the round of 64 are set. Dexy’s Midnight Runners survived a late rally by Right Said Fred to earn the last #16 seed. Dexy will be going up against the Beatles in the first round. Can they pull a spectacular upset over “The Fab Four”?  It won’t be easy, but your votes could move them on. All four regions’ match-ups are ready to go. Please make your selections below.