I often try to avoid “everyone’s doing it” internet chains, but since Frank challenged me to name my six favorite songs, I’ll bite (I have a complex rationalization for why I’d participate in this one, but not others — but I can’t imagine that you’re interested).
Six favorites. That’s tough, given the sheer quantity of tune-age that’s flowed around me over the past skillion years. I have to pick something by Bruce Springsteen, so in a semi-arbitrary pick from among equally beloved selections, I’ll call “Badlands.” I have to pick something from the soul singles that first beguiled me into listening to AM radio; I thought I could pick something by the Supremes, or Gladys Knight and the Pips, to get an early start on gender balance, but for honesty’s sake I think I have to go off the Motown label to name Ray Charles’s “What’d I Say.” That’s not one of the songs that hooked me on the radio, but it’s a classic. I’m calling a dead heat for post-Beatles John Lennon’s “Instant Karma” and George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord,” both powerful songs that came to me at an impressionable time (count only as one). I owe Elvis Costello a pick; his Imperial Bedroom and King of America are my favorite albums of his, but the one song I put forward will be “Man Out of Time.” The Who: “Pure and Easy.” Michelle Shocked, “Holy Spirit,” from the Victoria Williams tribute album. There, that’s six (sort of).
That leaves out too much: the Indigo Girls, “Power of Two” (coming out ahead because all of Rites of Passage weighs so equally); the Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York”; Bob Dylan, goodness gracious, uh,“Tangled Up in Blue” (or “Buckets of Rain”); Billy Bragg, “Waiting For the Great Leap Forward”; Kirsty Maccoll, “Walking Down Madison” (though since her death, “Soho Square” resonates especially sadly); Rev. F. C. Barnes and Rev. Janice Brown, “Rough Side of the Mountain”; I eliminated Charles Mingus’s “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” as not a “song” in the sense of the assignment; likewise Philip Glass’s “Koyanisqaatsi.” Of course, U2’s “Gloria.” The Kinks — hmmm, “Misfits”? Joni Mitchell, “Hejira”? The Jam, “That’s Entertainment” (the version from the album release, not the demo that often appears on greatest-hits compilations). The Stones: I think I’ll nominate “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” since it draws on a variety of their strengths, but my first Stones song back in the day was “Jumping Jack Flash.” Talking Heads, “The Great Curve.”
And there’s so much more. Ask me again.