Friday, October 28

Friday Doghouse Riley Celebrity Playlist

First, Michael Penn is invited to the cookout, but his list was thirty songs long so he has to agree to leave on time. Second, how long, O Lord, am I going to have to listen to fat white guys say, "Dis is illin'"? It makes one reconsider one's position on avian flu. U no wot ahm sayin'?

Penn's list got me wonderin' whether I could produce an ultimate list of Ten, and only ten, Penn, of my own. Well, right off the bat classical/serious/instrumental jazz/ethnic musics are out; I couldn't even list my ten favorite guitar pieces, and the list would already be taken up with Bach. So I gave it a twenty-four hour working over with just pop, and discovered I can't do that either. So here's my celebrity playlist in case Apple calls me this weekend. Subject to change. U no wot ahm sayin'. Celebrity-zen comments included:

Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks: Moody Richard (The Innocent Bystander)

Striking It Rich (from 1971) is probably the album from my high school days which has held up the best. Which is odd considering the 30s Western Swing stuff seemed like a goof at the time. Dan's songwriting just inhabits that space, his singing with the Lickettes is like Manhattan Transfer minus the showtune mentality and with a soul transplant; John Girton plays gorgeous guitar, and Sid Page's violin could give you Stendhal's Syndrome.

Patsy Cline: Sweet Dreams (Of You)

God bless Owen Bradley. Without him Patsy might have wound up a yodelling novelty act. (Among the songs she hated: Crazy, Walkin' After Midnight, and I Fall to Pieces). I get chills every time I hear her opening here. It doesn't take me saying she sang every word from the heart, and the song is by Don Gibson, who wrote the same way.

Ella Fitzgerald: Someone To Watch Over Me

I'll take Billie if I'm gonna listen to a whole CD, but the purity of her voice and the pure longing of the song knock me out. A perfect cocktail.

Lotte Lenya: September Song

The greatest pop song ever written, sung by Weill's greatest interpreter. Funny how that worked out.

The Beatles: Baby's In Black

Self-consciously contrarian choice, definitely one of their B-level songs, but with an interesting structure, and Paul and John's harmony on the refrain sends me. There were times when their voices blended, times when they were complementary, and times when they showed each other off. This is one of the times when they became some sort of heavenly creature and flew off.

Elvis Costello: Allison

I just realized how many ballads I chose. Well, this is the best number on My Aim Is True, which is saying something right there. Plus, in retrospect, it seems to encapsulate everything he's done, somehow.

Eddie Floyd: Knock On Wood

This tops anything else that came out of Stax. Otis, Sam and Dave, anybody. Song by Eddie and Steve Cropper.

Tom Waits: Time

Why isn't he on a stamp?

Jackie Wilson: Lonely Teardrops

Mr. Electricity. Like Roy Orbison in the 60s his material seemed just a little out of date, and it didn't matter a damn bit.

Little Feat: Fat Man In The Bathtub

I named a cat for Lowell George. That sort of thing isn't done. The man was a slumming angel, the finest slide player ever, a first-rate songwriter, and a helluva singer to boot. At the all-star memorial for him in LA they couldn't find anyone with the range to sing this.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Riley, this is a great list.

I find it hard to argue with "Knock on Wood", "Lonely Teardrops", and "Fat Man in the Bathtub". Brilliant songs by brilliant musicians.

Although it's been overcovered, I'm a bit more partial to "Crazy" than "Sweet Dreams", but still a great choice.

As for Ella, it's hard for me to leave out her "Blues in the Night", but "Someone to Watch Over Me" is probably the second most beautiful song in the American Pop Song canon, just behind "All the Things You Are", which as far as I know, has no definitive version, so I defer to your judgement.

I wish I knew more Dan Hicks and Tom Waits stuff; now you've given me more reasons to dig deeper into their music.

As for Declan MacManus, I'm ready to fight you here. "Alison" is a fine song by a brash young songwriter not yet fully aware of his gifts. Here's a totally arbitrary list of 5 Elvis songs I think are better.

"Two Little Hitlers"
"Clowntime is Over"
"Human Hands"
"Indoor Fireworks"

When you start podcasting, please let me know.

James Briggs Stratton "Doghouse" Riley said...

Thanks, Dog. As you should know, in all of blogtopia there's no one I'd rather get a musical compliment from than you or that guy from Penn State. (Or Alex, but I'm hopelessly outclassed by youth and perspicacity).

I didn't run down artists to make the list; I let songs pop in my head all day and wrote 'em down for memory's sake. The Beatles being the only exception, since I knew they had to be there, and how do you pick one? The refrain of "Baby's in Black" is just one of my favorite Beatle-y moments.

So I didn't cross-check the Costello canon. "Allison" may not be his pinnacle as a songwriter, but it was the moment (five tracks into a debut album) I gave up and decided to worship him.

Those are great songs. Mind if I counter?

"So Like Candy"
"Oliver's Army"
"The Long Honeymoon"
"Motel Matches"

Alex said...

"Party Girl" is the early period ballad that sums it all up for me.

To randomly pick a few more:
"Watching the Detectives"
"When I Was Cruel No. 2"
(a straight line can be drawn between those two)
"Tramp the Dirt Down"
"Radio Radio" (live, SNL)
"Kid About It"