Is it a snarky song of misplaced optimism or is it a darkly satirical song about impending nuclear war? Is the subject really optimistic about his post-collegiate future or is it just sarcastic angst regarding his lack of clear direction?
Besides every song ever? Probably this one:
What can I say about Tom Scholz’s breakout hit that isn’t covered in a new documentary on PBS? This 70s power ballad has always held a spot in the back of my mind that helped be get through both good times and bad. This was the first song I memorized on Guitar Hero and often used it to “shark” other players during the early days of the game’s rise to prominence. I used to tease the ex by substituting her name for “Mary Ann” in that haunting line “I see my Mary Ann walking away” before breaking into that face-melting solo.
I think, for me, the song really is about life in general, and the ups and downs we experience–love gained and lost, new careers and old, moving–the song plays like a memoir of a man looking back on his life so far, but the major chord structure lets us know that it’s all going to turn out okay. Ever the optimist, this is a song that reinforces that worldview for me.
1983: One of the single best years in music history!
So. Many. Awesome. Tracks. One. Thrilling. Album. Thriller was a tour de force on the pop charts in 1983, smashing every record and selling over 66 million copies! In addition to being an unstoppable one-man hits machine, Michael Jackson knew how to make amazing music videos–he teamed up with some of the brightest minds in cinema (Landis, Coppola, Scorsese) to create not just music videos, but complete short-subject (and sometimes feature-length) films that centered around his tracks.
If you see a painted sign at the side of the road that says “15 miles to the….”
Everyone loves this track, and no one ever does it correctly. My goal is to fix that. Who’s in?
There’s nothing quite cruising around with The Beach Boys.
So many tracks by this timeless group from Hawthorne, California that it’s hard to pick just one, but for the purest of good times, I’ll go with their summertime classic “Fun, Fun, Fun”.
We all should dream to be as cool as Myke Scavone in this video.
How many essential 70s rock track could trace its origins back to at least 1939, with some scholars arguing that even that was an adaptation of a mid-18th-century marching cadence? Ram Jam’s cover of “Black Betty” is a staple of every “road rock” compilation album on the market, and for good reason: its driving beat, marked by a simple bass drum and cymbal couplet and punctuated by a grungy electric guitar riff marks time almost perfectly with the hashed lines down the center of the tarmac!
“Black Betty” is a song always in motion, and has always been associated with driving for me–especially long overnight road trips up, down, and across the entire North American continent. This track was also the namesake of my 2001 Mazda Miata–a name that conjured the attitude and the panache that newly single me was looking for in a faithful steed when I bought her in 2008. She lived up to her name, and helped me get to so many places not only in our travels, but in life as well. I’ll miss her, but I’m grateful for the time we had.
I’m a sucker for cheesy 80s power ballads.
This song needs no explanation or justification.
Seriously? I don’t think this challenge was made for someone like me who literally grew up listening to music mostly from the 1970s and 80s. Oh, the ancient nineteen-seventies!
If we’re going to go for the 70s, we’re going full seventies–as in 1970. Chicago is one of those bands that transcends decades by actively producing new albums with some regularity for over five decades, so it might not be fair to label them strictly “70s”. That being said, their heyday was certainly during the soulful decade of bell bottoms and braids.
Taking a bluesy 60s rock and roll pedigree and combining the big band sound of decades prior, Chicago was able to create a wholly new, experimental sound that would eventually influence big-name acts later in the decade such as Earth, Wind, and Fire and Genesis.
“25 or 6 to 4” is one of those classic tracks that really deserves an extended solo section to really let the diversity of instrumentation shine–not just lead guitar, but each horn and even the rhythm section all have distinctive parts in this piece. This was one of those songs that validated being a band nerd–even though we never did play anything half as cool in an official capacity!
Like what you saw? Then give it up for the Turtles!
I’ve been a little preoccupied with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lately, but this is still one of those tracks that I feel defines that weird, neon day-glo colored era that was the early 1990s. Even the scene from the film that featured this cut was so ridiculously shoehorned in that one has to think Carl Macek might’ve penned the script!
Hype it up, put those funky beats behind it, and make it Ice!
Go, ninja! Go, ninja! Go!
Crank up the bass on this one and dig that synthesizer!
Who doesn’t love the driving energy of a good rock song? BOC’s “Burnin’ For You” is simultaneously high-energy and laid back, a feat that few holdovers from the progressive rock era were able to achieve. There’s something transcendental about this cut that always brings me back to the chorus, turning up the bass to try and pick out how many octaves are actually being played on the keyboard. That melodic bass line keeps the whole piece pumped with so much depth that it’s hard to really hear anything else once your ears are tuned to it.