Top 100 of the past 50 years

I love Popdose, and this list of the top 100 singles of the past 50 years shows why. Neither the smug Rolling Stone critics nor the snarky 21st century bloggers would come up with a list that incorporates a host of undisputed classics along with some terrific off-the-wall choices — XTC, Dave Brubeck, Scritti Politti.

– Most of the top 20 is dead-on
– The shoutout to Colin Moulding’s bass playing (#11)
– The shoutout to a classic WKRP moment (#5)
– Stevie being in the top 2 with a classic blast of funk and philosophy
– The recognition for George Michael finally doing a song that showed off his actual talent (#32)
– Recognition for songs that didn’t top the charts, like Veronica
– Picking Goodbye Yellow Brick Road out of the Elton John catalog

Don’t love:
– Just not feeling the Beach Boys at #1
– The Peter Gabriel overload, particularly Sledgehammer. I liked that song better when Stevie Wonder recorded the version at #2 on this list with much more meaningful lyrics. Videos do not make songs
– Two Tears for Fears song that aren’t Shout and Woman in Chains. (Though I did like the Real Genius reference)

– I remember reading that Steve Winwood sang Gimme Some Lovin’ in F-sharp when he was on Letterman’s show years ago. The original was in G. Still sounded great.

And now for the obligatory “songs for which I would’ve voted”:

You Oughta Know, Alanis Morissette: Heck of an introduction.

Whipping Post, Allman Brothers: Some anguished blues with killer bass and organ lines trading with the usual Allman guitars, all flipping between 4/4 and 11/8? 11/12?

Rock Lobster, B-52s: I can’t dance worth a flip, but I still hail this one as a classic party song.

The Old Apartment, Barenaked Ladies: Comic geniuses in their live shows, the Ladies can also put together a good dose of pissed-off sentimentality.

Across the Universe, Beatles: One of the best dreamscapes ever imagined. Pardon the pun.

The Metro, Berlin: Can’t really remember any better story-telling in a synth-pop song. Great vocals, too.

In a Big Country, Big Country: Live versions are even better — a thunderous wall of sound underneath Stuart Adamson’s yearning vocals.

Allentown, Billy Joel: Best tale of working-class despair told by someone not named Bruce.

Just What I Needed, The Cars: Best use of their ironic semi-detachment, complete with a razor-sharp guitar solo.

Surrender, Cheap Trick: Best attempt to bridge the generation gap.

Who’ll Stop the Rain, Creedence Clearwater Revival: A protest song built on a simple, effective metaphor.

Boys Don’t Cry, The Cure: Ball up that sensitivity and let it go with a good 2:35 collection of hooks.

Shining Star, Earth Wind & Fire: You can do anything you want. Except dance, if you happen to be Elaine.

Mirror in the Bathroom, English Beat: Just because you’re paranoid …

Your Hand in Mine, Explosions in the Sky: My one relative obscurity — a gorgeous mosaic of simple guitar lines that capture every aspect of young love.

The Chain, Fleetwood Mac: Dysfunction never sounded so good.

Don’t Change, INXS: Is it legal to form an ’80s covers band without adding this to the set list?

Cult of Personality, Living Colour: A great band’s most accessible effort.

Our House, Madness: A simple ode to a simple life.

Overkill, Men at Work: They had a reputation as a bunch of goofballs after their first couple of videos, so this one may have been misunderstood. It reassures the listener that we all have paranoid days, and the chord changes in the chorus (think “Ghosts appear then fade away”) are stunningly beautiful.

Mental Hopscotch, Missing Persons: Dale Bozzio’s yelping voice actually works on this one. Helps that the rest of the band could really play.

Synchronicity II, The Police: Unique storytelling told with a bit of panache.

Middle of the Road, The Pretenders: Chrissie Hynde nails this coming-of-age tale.

Fake Plastic Trees, Radiohead, and Shout, Tears for Fears: Lumped together here because they’re perfectly orchestrated, putting together all the drama one can wring out of a rock band.

Angel, Sarah McLachlan: A classic with some subtleties, like the bowed bass you hardly notice.

Pride, U2: Left out the parentheses for Jason’s sake.

Won’t Get Fooled Again, The Who: Perfect rock song.

Tunes of the weird: Blotto

One more test to see if YouTube is summarily taking down every video I embed.

In this case, that’d be fine, because it hardly seems fair to label this one “Worst 80’s Music Video,” as some YouTuber has declared. It’s campy fun from an upstate New York band that managed to get some MTV play because MTV didn’t mind campy fun in those days.

It’s Blotto, with I Wanna Be a Lifeguard:

Want some band history? Wikipedia sums it up: “They were formed in 1979 out of the remains of the Star Spangled Washboard Band, a post-hippie comedy jugband.”

Now that I’d like to see.

They still play from time to time, as this 2007 video proves, even though they’ve all gone on to different careers. The drummer’s a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property law, so I’m guessing he would have had all this stuff yanked down from YouTube if he wanted to. Where else are you going to see this? MTV?

Tunes of the Weird: Devo

Sometime in the late ’70s (full details are classified), a small group of government scientists attempted to create a grand unified theory of culture. Using the largest supercomputer available at the time, they input a diverse collection of items reflecting the day — a self-help book, a prototype synthesizer and, something that was lying around the office for some reason, a book on sadomasochism.

The computer made some hiccuping noises. Smoke started to rise from the reel-to-reel tape inputs. In the midst of the evacuation, the computer abruptly released the output. It was this video:

Fortunately, they had the ideal band to record this. Devo had been operating for a few years. They were involved with a sort-of religious movement. They used synthesizers. They wore flower pots. They didn’t mind making videos in which they could explain the whips but probably couldn’t explain why a woman was making a dinner consisting entirely of meringue.

The religious movement, incidentally, celebrates feast days of Monty Python, Bill Hicks and Weird Al Yankovic.

The latter, coincidentally, did a pretty good Devo parody. (Not a specific song. Just the whole concept.)

There’s really no one else quite like Devo, with the possible exception of the Earons, who were supposedly some sort of extraterrestrial mechanoid race of synth-reggae musicians whose drummer kept pointing at the viewer. They were anonymous except for the lead singer, who seemed to be angling for a solo career once the gimmick wore off.

Not sure if that solo career ever materialized because … well, because I don’t know the guy’s name. But the Earons apparently are still together in some fashion, because they have a Web site urging us to “stand by for further transmissions.” Did they open an auto repair chain?

Devo still tours. The supercomputer recovered to beat Garry Kasparov but was stolen by a group of doctors trying to find another pill for people who forget to take their Viagra.

UPDATE: I get maybe 50 page views a week, and yet every time I embed a video from YouTube, that video disappears. They took down two of three here — apparently, no one is enforcing Earons copyright.

So here’s a link to the same Weird Al video on what appears to be an official Weird Al YouTube space. There, you can also see the epic R. Kelly parody Trapped in the Drive-Thru.

The Devo video is still there, but they’ve disabled embedding. Follow the link.