Joshua: At my job (for those of you who don’t know, I make the bagels at a small Baltimore café [a Jew making bagels? Go on!]), we have a busted-ass iPod speaker set. The actual part one would hook an iPod up to it is busted so all we can do with it is listen to the radio. The only station it picks up reliably is 100.7 The Bay, Baltimore’s only native classic rock radio station. Unfortunately, it’s corporate owned so it’s basically a Top 40’s station with classic rock instead of pop. The other day, I was working my ass off, slaving over the hot oven when I realized every single song they were playing had pissed me off. Every single song was terrible. I related this to a co-worker, who then said, “But they play the same damn songs every day, just in a different order.” So I said, “You’re right. I guess the order is what’s pissing me off today.” And that’s the crux of what we’re talking about this week. These are songs, if they came up on your iTunes or some other non-Apple-based-software shuffle you would totally dig, or at least not skip. But when they come on the radio and you can’t do anything but turn it off or suffer, they will piss you off every time. Bonus: Both Claire and I listened to a stream of 100.7 The Bay while writing this. We don’t recommend doing the same while reading it.
JOSHUA’S TOP 5:
Led Zeppelin – Kashmir
The problem I have with this song is really just the length. I love this song when it comes up in my shuffle. I mean, they are playing in 4/4 time and simulating 3/4 time over it. It’s a wild song. But the novelty of the time signature wears off about 4 minutes into the 8 minute song and certainly after the 69326th time you’ve heard it and had to sit through the whole damn thing. Not to mention it was sampled shittily by Puff Daddy for an even shittier remake of Godzilla.
Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
I will come out and say I don’t really like Pink Floyd. People always tell me it’s because I haven’t “opened my mind” enough (read: acid), but that’s not the problem. The problem is that their music is bland and boring. This song is second to only “Wish You Were Here” in the boring Pink Floyd oeuvre. Side note: The scene in the movie The Departed where Leonardo DiCaprio gets it on with Vera Farmiga is both hot as hell and set to a much better version of this song, sung live with Roger Waters and fucking Van Morrison. This version I would love to hear on the radio, but instead I get the insanely boring album version.
David Bowie – Fame
The biggest problem I have with this song is that it’s one of two or three songs they play by David Bowie, the others being “Space Oddity” and “Ziggy Stardust” and that’s it. Bowie has a huge collection of music and most albums are nothing like the one that just came before it. Having “Fame” being the one song 100.7 has fixated on playing by Bowie makes him seem like a one-hit wonder, which is both patently untrue and offensive. And racist. Why racist? Shut up, that’s why.
Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young – Ohio
This song is fine to sit through, with the exception of the chorus, which is needlessly repetitive. However, the real problem I have with it is the same problem I have with any song with a message on the radio: The more you hear it, the less the message hurts. And this song is supposed to hurt when you hear it. But all I can think about when it comes on the radio is “When the fuck will they shut up about ‘Four dead in O-hi-o’?”
Fleetwood Mac – The Chain
I actually really love this song. Straight up, unabashedly love this song. And that’s the real problem. I can’t hear it as often as 100.7 wants to play it, which seems like every two hours. When it comes up in my shuffle, I sing along so loud. And it has special meaning for me too: The first time I saw The Decemberists, I went to go pick up the tickets with the girl I was dating at the time (who, of course, was the one to get me into them) and I got to hear them doing their sound check and they totally sang this song. We were the only two people there…which makes it even worse to have to hear it as often as they play it. It tarnishes what should be a magical memory.
CLAIRE’S TOP 5:
Van Morrison — Brown Eyed Girl
This is a great song. Joyful, summery, with Van Morrison’s grainy Irish molasses voice (this is clearly a nonsense description, but you know what I mean, right? Like if molasses and a loofah had an Irish love child. There, that’s better), and the lovely silly “Sha la la la” chorus, designed by Russian scientists for maximum head bopping. Unfortunately, this is THE ONLY Van Morrison song for most classic rock radio stations. Oh sure, once in a while they’ll throw in a “Moondance,” or an “Into the Mystic” if they’re feeling really feisty, but when they need to hit that daily Van quota, they’re reaching for this. And after too many listens, those opening notes become a cue to switch that station, because not only is this a so-over-played-it’s-impossible-to-listen-to song, but it’s a so-catchy-it’s-impossible-to-shake-out-of-your-head-song too. Dangerous combo.
The Pretenders — Brass in Pocket
I love the Pretenders. I didn’t know that for years, because for years this was the only song of theirs I had ever heard. Years I tell you. It’s not a bad song—repetitive to a fault, more than a little cloying. But it’s another quota song, another “Hey guys, the Pretenders are classic rock, right? What’s the one song we need to play by them?” or “Hey, we never play songs by women, lets play “Brass in Pocket” and then….Heart?” Sigh.
Bob Dylan — Like a Rolling Stone
The overplaying of this song is part of a giant covert plot to make everyone hate Bob Dylan. Here’s the selection process: Lets look at a huge, luminous body of work (forget almost everything the man put out in the 80s, and that Victoria’s Secret commercial, okay? For me? Thanks.), and pick the most nasal, early Dylan-y voiced tune, play it incessantly, and only switch it up with “The Times, They Are a Changin’,” which fits the same voice model. And luckily, both songs are really long, so if you skip them, you end up going back to the station like three more times before the damn thing is over. No wonder everyone seems to answer the “What artists do you not like who you’re supposed to like?” question with Bob Dylan. For a lesson on how to like Bob Dylan again, just go listen to Blonde on Blonde a few times over. You’ll figure it out.
John Lennon– Imagine
“Imagine” is a haunting, beautiful, hall-of-fame-of-songs type song. And this is why it shouldn’t be treated like the latest Katy Perry pop trifle and put on repeat. Sometimes good songs needs to be treated like good foods. You wouldn’t eat a double ice cream scoop full of caviar. You wouldn’t spread foie gras on toast every morning and eat it standing up over the sink. Sure, it sounds awesome. But after a while, those luxurious treats would transform into technically good, but ultimately unexciting, foods that you could definitely do without. Who wants to feel that way? That’s how I feel about “Imagine.” Give it space to breathe, classic rock radio. And as with all artists—the man has other songs. Play them.
Everything by James Taylor, ever.
James Taylor, I hear you’re a good artist. And after reading “Girls Like Us,” I hear you’re a heart-breaking sex icon. That’s all terrific. Congratulations. Unfortunately, I can’t listen to any of your music. You are one of the few quota-less classic rock radio musicians, which means all of your music has been played to death. Maybe you’re proof that artists do need quotas?