You know how you write a blog post, then realise you missed out a bunch of stuff? I forgot a few songs that should really have made it into the last entry…
Sweet Child o’ Mine, Guns n’ Roses
Some would argue this song is over-the-top and self-indulgent, with at least one too many guitar solos. These people are clearly wrong. It also have one of the best introductions in rock music, and ends on a couple of chords that wouldn’t be out of place on a spaghetti western soundtrack.
All Along The Watchtower, Bear McCreary
Let’s face it, this song is a stone-cold classic, whether you’re listening to the original Bob Dylan version, or the Hendrix cover. It’s a great song, goes without saying. What I never expected to hear was a bhangra-metal version cropping up in the middle of the Battlestar Galactic remake. Just like the show, listening to it is like having a front row seat to the End of the World; the Four Horsemen are riding ‘cross the desert but they’re a’headin’ for your street…
Amazing Grace, written by John Newton
Not just the greatest hymn ever written, but, probably thanks to its roots in the British abolition movement, somehow keeps cropping up at times of social upheaval – it was sung on the Trail of Tears, got an extra verse thanks to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and became something of a mainstay of the sixties folk movement. The story of a man freed from the chains of his past, the central tenet of Christianity bolstered by Newton’s personal history as a slave-trader-turned abolitionist, this is probably the most important hymn of the last 300 years. The version included here is by Arlo Guthrie (Woody’s son), mainly because he tells the story of the song halfway through; it’s not 100% accurate, but you get the idea.
Fairytale of New York, The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl
Ignoring carols, this is the best Christmas song ever written. Yes, I’m going off on a rant about Simon Cowell again, but you see this song Simon? This is what a Christmas song is! A song about two people who know that life sucks, and that they might not be around this time next year, but they find a moment of grace thanks to the NYPD choir. Awesome. And it may be halfway blasphemous to suggest it, but if the Nativity story happened today, I can imagine the angels showing up in a New York homeless shelter. It may be drunk and stoned, but at its heart this song may be closer to what Christmas is really about than anything with sleigh bells. And, of course, the Pop Idol winner.
Boys of Summer, The Ataris
Not much to say here, my friend Dave introduced me to this cover and I love it. Remember the hypothetical writing project I mentioned in my last post? This is the closing theme.
The Whole of the Moon, The Waterboys
I wanted to include a Waterboys song, and it would have been Love and Death had it been on Youtube. It isn’t, so I’m going with this instead. Loving the saxaphone after the bit about the comet…
And Can It Be, written by Charles Wesley
This is another of my top three hymns, and yet again it makes a big deal out of grace. My denomination is Methodist, and while I’m a Christian first and a member of a denomination a distinct second, this is the Methodist anthem, the Wesley boys summing up a theology of grace and liberation in a song that gets in your bones and cranks the church organ up to 11. Any church person who doesn’t get into it by the time they hit the ‘My chains fell off’ verse is officially missing the point. And I don’t care if I’m linking to Songs of Praise, although as hymns go, this is a you-have-to-be-there thing.
Disco 2000, Pulp
I was never a big fan of Britpop, but I love this song. If you see me driving along, bellowing out discordant lyrics? This is probably on the radio and I’m trying to join in. And while we’re talking about Pulp, check out the Shatner version of Common People. Disagree all you want, I think it works…
Living on a Prayer, Bon Jovi
Whoa-a whoa-a ooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh halfway there ooooOOOOHHHHHHH! Living on a Praaaaa-yeeeeerrrrrr…..
My City of Ruins, Bruce Springsteen
The Hands That Built America, U2
There were a lot of voices following 9-11; we’re still hearing them now, in Iraq, in the London bombings, in political discourse and fanatic videos filmed in a cave somewhere. In the midst of all this, Bruce Springsteen released The Rising, an album that, while not necessarily all about 9-11, was certainly informed by it. My City of Ruins builds to a crescendo, gospel at Ground Zero, somehow trying to metaphysically rebuild the Towers, and never forgeting that, despite everything that’s happened since, the real story of 9-11 lies with office workers and firefighters. The Hands That Built America touches on a similar vein; together, these songs are partly why I can’t get enthused about anti-Americanism… Regardless of what Bush or Obama did or are doing, when the planes went into the Towers, it was people like me who were in there. Bruce gets that, and it’s why The Rising remains the artistic response to 9-11 towards which I’d point people, and it was by accident.
Birdhouse in your Soul, They Might Be Giants
Because this song is made of awesome.