Here’s the playlist for the InterFM show I programmed last night, with links where available.
Sarcasm & Sincerity: Songs I think would sound good on the radio
M1. “Old World,” The Modern Lovers (1973)
An anti-hippie without being a jerk about it, Jonathan Richman was once the self-declared savior of rock’n roll but retreated into innocence and earnestness. In 1973 a rock musician had to have guts to pledge allegiance to his parents.
M2. “The Funky Western Civilization,” Tonio K. (1978)
At one time Tonio K. rivaled Warren Zevon for the title of Los Angeles’s most cynical singer-songwriter, though he made his money writing conventional songs for other artists. The sarcasm on this particular song is timeless, which is not necessarily a good thing considering the subject matter.
M3. “He Never Got Enough Love,” Lucinda Williams (1992)
A pure country song and one of the few Lucinda has co-written (with Betty Elders), “He Never Got Enough Love” utilizes all the cliches of the form but from a different emotional perspective. A man could never have written this song, much less sing it with any credibility.
M4. “What Good Am I Without You,” Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston (1964)
Since this is Motown I’m sure it was played on the radio but I never heard it until the early 70s when I found it on the first Marvin Gaye anthology. I love Tammi Tyrell but Kim Weston was a better duet partner. And that piano is just plain crazy.
M5. “Mistaneek,” Natacha Atlas (1999)
Club music’s most entertaining polymath, Natacha Atlas was raised in Brussels by an English mother and a Sephardic Jew father. She speaks five languages and was a professional belly dancer before joining Transglobal Underground as a singer. I have no idea what she’s singing about here. It could be about God or it could be about sex. Or it could be about both.
M6. “Take a Walk,” Spoon (2001)
Austin’s best indie band became tighter and leaner on their third album, Girls Can Tell, though not as tight and lean as they are now. This two-and-a-half minute tune epitomizes what I want in a radio song: immediate pleasure and a vocal that cuts through titanium.
M7. “Your Old Lady,” Andre Williams & The Sadies (2012)
R&B’s most enduring bullshit artist was 75 when he recorded this song. He should do a duet with Ice Cube. (no link to the song available)
M8. “Dig It,” The Coup (1993)
A proud communist, Boots Riley insists that his politics can’t be separated from his sense of fun. He would refine both his rhetoric and his humor later on, but this opening salvo from his first album is one of the funkiest cuts he ever made. (note: the YouTube clip seems to be the “clean” version)
M9. “Get Ready to Ride the Lion to Zion,” Culture (1978)
I assume that this song was played on the radio in Jamaica when it came out, but I’ve never been to Jamaica.
M10. “El Camino,” Elizabeth Cook (2010)
I understand why Nashville rejects Elizabeth Cook’s songs about “pervy” 70s-obsessed Romeos and the like, but I think if they gave her version of family values a chance they’d learn to appreciate it. Or at least enjoy a good laugh. (note: link is to a live version of the song, not the album version I played)
M11. “Ne Me Fatigue Pas,” Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba (2013)
This is new, and I always think a radio show isn’t complete without one good guitar solo, even when it’s played on the Malian ngoni.
M12. “Talent Show,” The Replacements (1989)
Some say the Replacements could have been the Great American Rock Band if they’d been more serious, but it was the lack of seriousness that made them irresistible; that, and Paul Westerberg’s gift for hooks. This is not their best song, but it captures their unique blend of sincerity and sarcasm better than most. (here’s a live clip from TV where they censor the line “feeling good from the pills we took”)
M13. “The Long Goodbye,” Miranda Lee Richards (2001)
A publicist from Toshiba EMI once called and asked me to write about this song, saying it was going to be a hit in Japan. I never heard it on the radio and Virgin soon dropped Richards. It’s one of those rare songs that benefit from over-production. Her knack for 60s-style melodies (she’s the daughter of San Francisco underground comic artists) is ably served by David Campbell’s arrangement, and I can never get enough of that huge 12-string acoustic guitar sound.
M14. “Locked in Closets,” Solange (2012)
Beyonce’s little sister plays Diana Ross to her own Supremes in a dark club at the end of a long night.
M15. “My Life,” Iris DeMent (1994)
I dare you to listen to this and not feel inadequate to the task of being human.
M16. “Dance With Me,” Iron City Houserockers (1979)
I love Bruce Springsteen and the working class values he stands for, but the experiences he describes in his songs are second-hand. He’s never held a job. The members of this Pittsburgh bar band live the lives he sings about. Springsteen, in fact, is a fan and a friend of leader Joe Grushecky. Their music should have been played to death on the radio, and I have no idea why it wasn’t. (note: can’t find an album version of this song on the web; the link is to a Gruschecky live rendition of the song from a few years ago)