Top 5 Lists I Didn’t Get To Do On My Show

During my tenure at WMUC2 as the host of Listen Up!, I did 34 shows. Only two of them ended without a Top 5 list – three if you count the Top 20 Shortest Songs list, which I did as part of an experiment to see how many songs I could squeeze into two hours – and only one of those was because I didn’t have an idea for the week. The other was because my show was cut short by a Maryland baseball game.

Terrapins baseball: Interrupting my radio shows since 2009.

Of course, along with the 32 lists that made it to the airwaves, there were several list ideas that I never got to do. Most of the time it was because I had a hard time thinking of five songs with which to fill the list, which kind of defeats the purpose of the whole “Top 5” thing. But that’s what happens when you try to classify songs into excessively specific categories, especially because my brain isn’t quite the encyclopedia of music knowledge that I would have liked for it to be. It certainly would have made filling these lists a lot easier!

As always, the fun begins after the jump.

Top 5 Favorite TV Theme Songs

What Would’ve Been #1: The Seatbelts, “Tank!” (Cowboy Bebop)

There have been a lot of memorable TV theme songs over the years. Some provide a quick summary of what the show is about. Others are short but sweet instrumental scores that we can instantly recognize and associate with the show. And still others are songs that weren’t written for the show, but instead were chosen and licensed to be the theme because they suited the show for one reason or another.

It’s that last category that provided the biggest obstacle for me. After all, as I said, those songs weren’t written specifically for the show. Every week I liked providing some brief reasoning for why I made the choices I made for each list. But for this one I probably would have had to analyze how, say, “Next Year” by the Foo Fighters connected to this long-gone NBC show called Ed that I never watched and knew absolutely nothing about except that its theme song was a Foo Fighters song. I would have had an easier time with songs like “Superman” by Laszlo Bane (the theme from Scrubs), but I still couldn’t really decide whether I wanted to include that last group of theme songs in this list. This in turn left me with the unfavorable possibility of my intros outlasting the songs on the list, and I don’t usually like when DJs let their constant yap-yap-yapping dominate what’s supposed to be a music show.

On The List (?): Foo Fighters, “Next Year”

Ironically my #1 choice for this list was a piece of cake. If I were stranded on a desert island and I could only have one soundtrack from a movie or TV show, I would immediately choose Cowboy Bebop and wouldn’t even think twice about it. It has so much variety in both genre and mood and all of it is so well-composed that even if I didn’t like the show (which I absolutely do) I’d still be able to appreciate the music. But only one song could be played at the start of each episode, and “Tank!” is an excellent choice to open a show that routinely makes excellent musical choices. Okay, three, two, one – let’s jam!

Top 5 Unhappiest Songs About Happy Things

On The List: Radiohead, “Nice Dream”

The concept of this list was to counter the Top 5 Happy Songs About Unhappy Things list that actually did air on my show. Unfortunately I couldn’t really think of anything that uses this particular breed of dissonance. The closest I could think of was Radiohead’s “(Nice Dream),” which would have made the list – and in fact inspired this hypothetical list – mainly because this is the first verse:

They love me like I was a brother

They protect me, listen to me

They dug me my very own garden

Gave me sunshine, made me happy

Nice dream, nice dream, nice dream

But listen to Thom Yorke’s voice. The man sounds utterly heartbroken. I’ve never heard anyone sound sadder to sing lyrics about presumably happy things than Thom Yorke in “(Nice Dream).” And this is probably because… well, the song’s called “(Nice Dream)” for a reason, isn’t it? He’s sad about having nice dreams because in the end it’s just a dream, and real life isn’t as satisfying.

I can hear you saying already, “But isn’t this the guy from one of the biggest and most critically acclaimed bands in the world? How can he be so unhappy?” Well, first of all, this was written before Radiohead became that band. Second, this is the guy who openly rejected the biggest hit single of his career, the guy who nearly suffered a nervous breakdown during the tour supporting an album that was not only Radiohead’s most commercially successful but also one of the most highly praised albums of the last 30 years. There’s a scene near the end of Meeting People Is Easy, which documents the OK Computer tour, where Yorke almost loses it while talking to his bandmates about all the hype they’d been getting from the media. It’s like he either doesn’t believe that hype or he’s realized the pressure they’ll be under to live up to that hype in the future and is starting to crack under it. Or at least that’s how I saw it when I watched the film.

Top 5 Favorite Commercial Jingles

On The List: Fruit Of The Loom, “Blue”

The reason for not doing this list was pretty simple – I couldn’t think of a way to do this without making it seem like a glorified commercial break, and I’m pretty sure there isn’t one. Besides, how many jingles can you think of that would work on their own as songs, separate from their intended advertising environment? The only ones I can think of at the moment that could do that are Coca-Cola’s “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing,” which actually did become a hit single, and Fruit Of The Loom’s dead-on Coldplay parody “Blue.”

Top 5 Bands I Saw On Third Rail

What Would’ve Been #1: Solar Powered Sun Destroyer

I was a sound engineer on Third Rail Radio at WMUC for at least half my college career. It was a show where we brought in local bands or artists on indie labels and had them play a short live set on the air. We usually had two or three acts per week, so I saw a lot of bands. Seems like more than enough material for a Top 5 list, right? Well, unfortunately, there were a ton of bands whose names I couldn’t remember and so I couldn’t exactly look them up. Some were pretty obscure and I had trouble tracking down stuff that sounded okay. And it would have been too time-consuming to go through the multitude of Third Rail shows I’d worked and Google all those bands so I could refresh my memory for the sake of one Listen Up! show.

On The List: Double Dagger, “No Allies”

Here are a handful that made especially strong impressions on me. Double Dagger is a noisy punkish trio from Baltimore that somehow creates a ton of sound with just a bass, a drum kit, and vocals. The Flying Eyes, who appeared on Third Rail more than anyone else I’d seen, are a psychedelic blues-rock band whose singer’s voice bears a striking resemblance to Jim Morrison of the Doors. My favorite of the lot was Solar Powered Sun Destroyer, a space-rock group with a triple guitar attack whose sound is reminiscent of stuff like Planet Of Ice by Minus The Bear, Vheissu by Thrice, and Jupiter by Cave In.

Top 5 Drummers Who Should Be Allowed To Write Songs

On The List: Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Queens Of The Stone Age, and about 20-something other bands)

Dave Grohl once said that the reason he kept his songs to himself when he was the drummer in Nirvana was because he didn’t want to interfere with what Kurt Cobain was doing. He considered Cobain a great songwriter and didn’t want to go down as the guy who ruined Kurt’s songs. He mentioned an old joke about drummers that went something like this:

Q: What was the last thing the drummer said before he got kicked out of the band?

A: “Hey guys, check out this new song I wrote!”

Such is the reputation of drummers who attempt solo projects. Ringo Starr has the least celebrated solo output of any Beatle, Keith Moon’s covers album Two Sides Of The Moon was widely rejected (and that’s putting it kindly), and Peter Criss’s solo debut got one star from Rolling Stone and a whopping 0.0 from Pitchfork when they reviewed it over 20 years after its release. But every now and then a guy like Grohl comes along who proves to be a talented songwriter in his own right; his Foo Fighters have scored numerous hit singles and awards, and their new album Wasting Light has earned perhaps the highest praise of any Foo album since The Colour And The Shape.

The reason I ended up not doing this list was because I couldn’t think of enough drummers who’ve been renowned and successful songwriters. There’s Dave Grohl, of course… and, um… Phil Collins… jeez, I’m having a hard time with this even now. Phil Selway from Radiohead has released some solo material, though I haven’t heard much of it. Brann Dailor from Mastodon has a hand in writing lyrics and developing the concepts and themes for each album, but they don’t seem to have a dominant songwriter; Mastodon’s music is always credited as a group effort. I don’t know, I’m drawing a blank just as I did back then.

Top 5 Weirdest Radiohead B-Sides

What Would’ve Been #1: “Trans-Atlantic Drawl”

Radiohead has a lot of topnotch B-sides, which is a pretty remarkable achievement. If you were to construct an album consisting entirely of their B-sides, that hypothetical album would likely be just as well-received as the rest of their work usually is. If you include the My Iron Lung EP and the In Rainbows bonus disc, you’ve got an even greater wealth to choose from. I can’t think of a whole lot of bands I could say that about, but then again I’m not always compelled to collect all the B-sides and rarities.

Of course, they’ve also got a bunch of pretty weird B-sides from their Kid A/Amnesiac and Hail To The Thief sessions. I actually had a whole Top 5 list planned out for this category; in fact, this was one of the first Top 5 ideas I came up with. I decided not to use it because I didn’t think I could get away with devoting the entire fourth quarter of a show to one artist and me talking about that one artist, even that artist happened to be my favorite band. I don’t remember the order, but I remember that “Worrywort” and “The Amazing Sounds Of Orgy” (which I later included on a different Top 5 list) were definitely on it, “I Am Citizen Insane” and “Where Bluebirds Fly” were probably on it, and “Trans-Atlantic Drawl” was #1.

You know, now that I think about it, I could probably give this list a proper write-up since this is a blog and thus I don’t have to worry about radio station rules and FCC guidelines and whatnot. Stay tuned…

Top 5 Longest Songs In My Collection

What Would’ve Been #1: Intronaut, “The Reptilian Brain”

As I mentioned at the start of this post, one of my Listen Up! shows was an experiment to see how many songs I could squeeze into my two-hour time slot. The final count was something like 57 or 58 songs, with most of the final 20 being less than a minute long and capped off by Napalm Death’s 2-second-long “You Suffer,” the shortest song ever recorded. The flipside of this gimmick was to play the top 5 longest songs in my collection, and I have some pretty long songs. The top spot belonged – and still does, actually – to “The Reptilian Brain” by Intronaut, which clocks in at 16 minutes and 20 seconds. The rest of the list, which is also unchanged from what it was back then, is as follows: “Ants Of The Sky” by Between The Buried And Me (13:11); “Hearts Alive” by Mastodon (13:49); “White Walls,” also by Between The Buried And Me (14:13); and “The Lightning Strike” by Snow Patrol, of all bands, which comes just two seconds short of matching “The Reptilian Brain.” One of these things is not like the other things, one of these things just doesn’t belong…

On The List: Mastodon, “Hearts Alive”

And of course these are only the longest songs I have in my collection. There have been songs over the years that dwarf even these. Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” lasts about 26 minutes in total, though the song is divided into two separate tracks. The Mars Volta’s Frances The Mute closes with a 32-minute epic called “Cassandra Gemini” – and for the sake of comparison, Weezer’s Green Album is only 28 minutes long. The title track from Dream Theater’s Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence takes up the entire second disc of that album and runs for 42 minutes. Jethro Tull’s “Thick As A Brick” goes on for about 44 minutes and actually is a one-song album. And then there’s the 52-minute odyssey that is Sleep’s “Jerusalem,” which they somehow topped four years later with the hour-long “Dopesmoker.” So if I had any of that stuff, I probably would have run out of time!

Even as it is the Top 5 Longest Songs list goes for about an hour and 12 minutes. I ultimately decided it was just too much time to devote to five songs when I had so much music I wanted to play on my show. So even for that one week when I couldn’t think of a good Top 5 list, I still didn’t think this would have made for a good show. But then again, I don’t listen to a whole lot of epic-length music – I am, after all, the guy who devoted an entire blog post to complaining about Oasis songs overstaying their welcome at a mere nine minutes.

I think that just about covers all the Top 5 lists I didn’t get to do on my show, but who knows? Some of these lists may resurface on this blog someday. Not that I’m promising anything, of course.

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3 responses

  1. Pingback: Top 5 Lists I Didn't Get To Do On My Show « Listen Up! (with Colin … | Writing Hit Songs

  2. Wow,

    Such a cool list that is. I have saved these tracks to my machine. Thanks a lot for sharing such cool videos with us.

    July 15, 2011 at 1:14 am

  3. Puddin900

    Great selection of music and videos…. as always! I really enjoy reading your website! ~ Thanks!

    July 16, 2011 at 9:37 pm

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