The 100 Best Singles In My Head
Quite a mixed bag in today's installment -- most of these artists are here for their general importance in my musical life, not because of these specific singles. But for various reasons, each of them simply HAS to be on the list somewhere, so here they are . . .
[Click on the highlighted links to read my earlier posts on those songs]
91. "Cruel to Be Kind" / Nick Lowe (1979) Ah, c'mon, you KNOW I love Nick. But he was never very lucky when it came to singles; this was his only hit, a power-pop gem that still never tempted me to buy his albums. It would be years before I saw the light.
92. "Hungry" / Paul Revere and the Raiders (1966)
Throughout the mid-60s, I was a stubborn Anglophile, watching the nighttime music revues Shingdig! and Hullaballoo only to catch the latest British bands. But I had a secret. Every day when I came home from school, I'd turn on Where the Action Is to watch Paul Revere and the Raiders cavort on a SoCal beach in their full trademark regalia of ponytails, breeches, and tricorn hats. My crush on lead singer Mark Lindsay was a deep dark secret (secret, that is, from my true love Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits). Only years later did I realize that the Raiders were in fact a tight, energetic dance band, with songs that were hardly inane fluff. The costumes, the gimmick, were just the price of fame. "Hungry" -- which, like their other big hit "Kicks," was by veteran songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill -- simply seethes with sexual appetite, underlaid with Revere's thrusting keyboards and a prowling deep bassline. Lindsay's bluesy voice was like America's answer to Eric Burdon -- those cajoling, intimate verses just exploded into the frenzied chant of the chorus: "Hungry for those good things, baby / Hungry through and through." The segue into verse two is devastating, as Lindsay sucks in his breath, then groans, "I can almost taste it, babe . . . " And me on the sofa with my 6th grade homework, the little fangirl storing it all up.
93. "For Your Love" / The Yardbirds (1965) I say I was infatuated with the British Invasion -- and yet of its Big Six bands (Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Animals, Who, Yardbirds) I only liked the first four. I was way too young to "get" the heady guitar-driven sound of the Yardbirds back in 1965. My loss . . .
94. "I Can See For Miles" / The Who (1967)
The other major British Invasion band I couldn't quite love at first. I didn't like the Who because they'd copied their sound from the Kinks. I didn't like the Who because they busted up their instruments. I didn't like the Who because somehow, instinctively, I felt they were perves. (Come on, Tommy was just creepy.) But for a little period there, just as British rock headed into psychedelia, the Who won me over. Ostensibly a song about catching his girlfriend cheating, to me "I Can See For Miles" was always really about getting high, about the illusion of expanded consciousness. The spookiness of this track haunted me, with those clanging windmill guitar strums, Daltrey's echo-chambered vocals ("I know you deceived me, now here's the surprise / I know that you did 'cos there's magic in my eyes"), and best of all, the slow-mo progression of dissonant chords on "miles and miles and miles and MILES and MILES and m i l e s." The Who's lyrics never really held up, and they weren't much for melody, but for hooks and riffs they couldn't be beat. With this song, they added texture, playing metal against muffle, dark against glitter, and showmanship against sincerity; it was like they'd gone 3-D. The rest of this album, The Who Sell Out, baffled me, but this song? It made me forgive the Who. It's their Get Out of Jail Free card as far as I'm concerned.
95. "Heart of Glass" / Blondie (1979)
I moved to New York City in 1979 and immediately plunged into the New Wave scene, along with all the other recent college grads with nice entry jobs and tiny Manhattan apartments, privileged kids who didn't dare be associated with the punk scene down on St. Mark's Place. Blondie -- or more precisely, Blondie's lead singer, Debbie Harry -- reigned as Queen of that New Wave scene, but as I recall it, her power was not unquestioned. All the men I knew were infatuated with her ex-Playboy Bunny pout and fishnet-covered legs; most women I knew resented her for exactly the same qualities. Compared to the other New Wave ladies -- Kate and Cindy of the B-52s, Tina of the Talking Heads -- why did we need a vamp like Debbie Harry, even if she did have a killer singing voice? Nevertheless, Blondie's slightly edgy but catchy power-pop was deliriously fun to dance to, with great singalong hooks, and it'll always remind me of those glory days, when the downtown music clubs hadn't yet given way to disco. "Heart of Glass" was already heading in that direction -- just listen to that metronomic rhythm track, the syncopated synths, the robotic high flutter of Debbie's voice on "Once I had a love, it was a blast." It was Blondie's 3rd hit single from their breakout album Parallel Lines; when "Heart of Glass" hit #1, I remember finally dismissing Blondie as a mainstream sellout band. Now, of course, when this song comes on the radio I'm hit by waves of fond nostalgia. Go figure.