Dear Reader: Below you find a list of songs about Rock and Roll, or going to a rock club, and a short summary of why I like this song. I decided Rock and Roll and rock clubs were one in the same because I needed 5 non-lame songs to write about relating to Rock and Roll (be happy I didn’t decide to wax poetic on Billy Joel) and because going to a “club” and going to listen to rock music are basically one in the same for me (which is probably true for most readers of this blog, probably not true for most people in general). So, without further delay my selection of 5 songs that are sort of about Rock music:
“Rock and Roll” by the Velvet Underground
I tend to slip in and out of obsession with the Velvet Underground on a quarterly basis. I go clean every few months, and then, like a proper addict, relapse in a fit of nostalgia for the unremembered 60s. This summer, I can unequivocally blame Will Hermes’ book Love Goes to the Building on Fire for my rapid descent into my O.M.G you guys let’s listen to the Velvet Underground all the time neurosis. And if you haven’t read the book, I suggest you pick it up immediately, but be warned you’ll have to valiantly stave off a sense of New York bohemia just-chilling-with-Patti-Smith-lust that can be very distracting while you’re reviewing expense reports from Palestine.
Commence “Rock and Roll”: the guitar intro has just enough distortion to sound like a car with a booming radio rushing past on a bustling street.
Welcome Jenny, the girl whose life was saved by rock and roll. We all know what it’s like to suffer through the doldrums of Top 40 radio, waiting for that epiphanic moment when that song comes on and you’re consumed by joy, and also relief that there is good music in the world. As Lou Reed tells us, “it took no computations to dance to a rock and roll station.” Dancing to music that you love is an effortless affair: the body overtakes the mind and just moves.
Don’t we all kind of know what it’s like to be Jenny, plucked from our workaday existence and made exceptional by our love of song? Don’t we all kind of wish we were Jenny, grooving to the Velvet Underground on a crackling radio in our unheated loft somewhere in the village? Hey, isn’t that Robert Maplethorpe smoking on the street corner out there?
“Niteclub” by Old 97s
My longstanding love affair with Old 97s has been well documented on this website. They aren’t “rock and roll” in the same sense as the Velvet Underground: they earned their hangovers in bars wreathed with buffalo skulls and gazelle taxidermy somewhere in the steppe northwest of El Paso (as opposed to a filthy dive bar somewhere on the Lowest East Side). Fine, maybe I made that up based on every cliché I’ve ever met. But, the premise of “Niteclub” is as rock and roll as it gets – a vagabond musician with a tortured, romantic relationship with his favorite club.
The initial tumult of the parlor piano gives way to the lilting gait of guitar and drums. And then, Rhett Miller (O, Rhett! How we love the way you swing your hips on stage): from thousands of miles away, he yearns for the dank comfort of this club (Rock or country? We’ll never know) that stole so many hours of his youth, not to mention his one true love. It’s an easy song to sing, to mold your voice to every one of Rhett’s vocal inflections. He sings a cautionary tale of letting affection for a place, one that has housed your triumphs and tragedies, hold you hostage from the outside world.
“Rock and Roll Nightclub” by Mac Demarco
I don’t have a deep relationship with this song. I first heard it last week in the middle of a post-lunch comma at work and fell madly in love then played it for the next 3 hours of work.
Mac Demarco has that deep voice usually reserved for 70s soul men. On those men, it’s a smooth declaration of their virility. On Mac Demarco, it’s a mildly unsettling, seemingly deliberate strohbass. In other words, he sounds like that serious creeper in the corner of the dance floor trying to decide which drunk girl to cherry pick from her friends and subject to his unwashed armpit stench. Vocal tone aside, “Rock and Roll Nightclub” is a gentle song. It’s not paired with the usually pulsing grooves radiating sexual machismo (see, Iggy Pop, “Nightclubbing”), but rather the reverb fuzz of a plucked guitar, a musical analogy for the gradual haze of intoxication.
“Nightclubbing” by Iggy Pop
There’s a masterful, deliberate escalation of tension introducing Iggy Pop’s “Nightclubbing.” Each beat on the drum sounds like a footstep heavy with booze, treading towards the nightclub in blurred anticipation of the pleasures within. Matched with the sinister tone of the pianos, you can be sure something wonderfully debaucherous will come from this trip to the nightclub.
Or maybe I’m just projecting the club scene from Trainspotting on my listening of this song.
“Rock DJ” by Robbie Williams
Who remembers Robbie Williams? Not me, up until 30 minutes ago while I was scouring my iTunes looking for songs appropriate for my given theme. I clicked this song and suddenly, there I was, circa 2000 pasting pictures of No Doubt and Stone Temple Pilots I’d plucked from the Internet onto my bedroom wall, anxious for my first year at Art High School and desperately trying to fit the part.
It’s hard to transcend your reputation as late 90s British pop monster. I first heard Robbie Williams on the “Now That’s What I Call Music 2!” record, which I will go on the record to proclaim is a brilliant compilation—dare I say best in the series—commemorating music at the end of the millennium. His song “Millennium” is the second song on the album, sandwiched between New Radicals’ “You Get What you Give” and Semisonic’s “Closing Time.”
Where “Nightclubbing” is sinister, “Rock DJ” is bouncing off the walls just-get-me-to-a-dance-floor fun. There’s almost a sense of innocence to it—no one’s getting sloppy drunk and crying on the floor, no one’s going to nod off in a corner into a drug and drink haze. “Rock DJ” is an explosion of bass, synth, and Robbie’s smooth falsetto. You’re just going to put on something shiny and dance with your friends. The song samples both Barry White and A Tribe Called Quest, and quotes Snoop Dogg: how can this not lead to something fun? Obviously, there’s going to be a disco ball.