The 1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1980s – 220 to 211
She harbors no illusions and she’s worldly wise.
220.? “Being with You,” Smokey Robinson.? Songwriter: Smokey Robinson; #2 pop/#1 R&B; 1981.??Smokey was over forty years old when he released “Being with You,” but still had the songwriting and vocal skills to portray the drama of young, innocent romantic infatuation.??Robinson had penned “Being with You” for Kim Carnes, who had a Top Ten pop hit in 1980 with her cover of The Miracle’s “More Love,” but producer George Tobin convinced Robinson to record it.??Tobin, “With the background I had, I could tell whether the singer’s pitch was a little off. I actually stopped the machine to tell Smokey Robinson that a line was a little flat. He looked at me like he didn’t know whether I knew what I was talking about or not, but he just said, ‘Play it back for me.’ I played it back for him, and we punched it in. I guess he realized he could trust my ear enough to value my opinion, and we got along really great. But of course, Smokey is so good, he could sing the telephone book.”
219.? “Brilliant Disguise,” Bruce Springsteen.? Songwriter: Bruce Springsteen; #5 pop; 1987. QuestLove of The Roots, “I purchased (the) ‘Tunnel of Love’ (album) when I was 16. I know that for most people, especially bandwagon critics, that album might have been seen as a letdown, because it had to follow the massive eclipse of ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ But I’ve always felt it got shafted. It’s his divorce album, and I love breakup records — like Marvin Gaye‘s ‘Here, My Dear,’ or Bill Withers‘ ‘+Justments’, or even Richard and Linda Thompson’s ‘Shoot Out the Lights.’ On ‘Brilliant Disguise,’ Bruce is so open about saying it’s over. Most people in the public eye go to great lengths to be private, even in the celebrity-obsessed society we live in. But he’s just like, ‘We gave it our best shot, and it didn’t work.’ It’s unresolved. You don’t get that type of honesty and vulnerability from music very often.”
218.? “Rough Boys, Pete Townshend.? Songwriter: Pete Townshend; #89 pop; 1980.??Pete Townshend, “In a way it was a coming-out. That it was a real acknowledgment of the fact that I’d been surrounded by people that I really adored – and was actually sexually attracted to – who were men. And that the side of me that responded to those people was a passive side, a subordinate side.” Music journalist Mike McPadden, “Three down-stroked guitar chords open Pete Townshend’s solo hit, ‘Rough Boys.’ Pete plays that triple set-up five times in succession, creating a cascading sound that bounces up once he starts singing and the band swings into action. It’s a uniquely hypnotic, deceptively simple riff that only Pete could conceive and pull off, and the rest of ‘Rough Boys’ follows that lead.” Alice Cooper, “I still don’t know exactly what he was trying to say with that song, but I love it, whatever it is. Pete’s an amazing mystery.”
217.? “Lake of Fire,” Meat Puppets. Songwriter: Curt Kirkwood; Did Not Chart; 1984.??Songwriter Curt Kirkwood wasn’t feeling particularly demonic when he wrote this dark number about the biblical version of hell.??Kirkwood, “We were all living together and everybody decided to go to a Halloween party, and they were all getting in costumes. And I thought, ‘Man, this is one of the stupidest things – adults getting dressed up like we did when we were little kids.’ I had actually got pretty wasted on something and told everybody, ‘No, I’m not going.’ And then once I was alone, I just started messing around. I wrote a couple of songs that night. I wrote ‘Magic Toy Missing’ and ‘Lake of Fire,’ maybe one more. But I was just really trying to make fun of my friends for going out to a Halloween party.”??Nirvana, of course, memorably covered “Lake of Fire” in their MTV Unplugged session.
216.? “Love and Mercy,” Brian Wilson. Songwriter: Brian Wilson; Did Not Chart; 1988.??Brian Wilson, “I was in my piano room, playing ‘What the World Needs Now,’ and I just went into my own song…worked very hard to get out what was in my heart on that one…it’s a personal message from me to people. We wanted people to be covered with love, because there’s no guarantee of somebody waking up in the morning with any love. It goes away, like a bad dream. It disappears. Mercy would be a deeper word than love. I would think love is a gentle thing and mercy would be more desperate, ultimately more desperately needed, thing in life. Mercy – a little break here and there for somebody who’s having trouble. ‘Love and Mercy’ is probably the most spiritual song I’ve ever written.”??The 1988 “Brian Wilson” release was our hero’s first album since 1977’s “The Beach Boys Love You” and while the voice shows some wear, this is a classic Brian Wilson composition and theme.
215.? “Ceremony,” New Order. Songwriters:?Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner; Did Not Chart; 1981.??Ron Kretsch from The Dangerous Minds website, “I’d hardly be the first to observe that ‘Ceremony’ is THE emblematic song of Joy Division’s sometimes shaky transition to New Order after the suicide of JD singer Ian Curtis. While the single is imperfect, it preserves a magnificent song that could have ended up lost. The instrumental performances and production are excellent, but vocals were handled by guitarist Bernard Sumner, who’d go on to become the band’s main singer. His tentative, mannered, flat-affect singing style was a good fit for NO’s later work, but his rookie effort couldn’t approach Ian Curtis’ expressive depth, and so lines like ‘I’ll break them all/No mercy shown’ land weightlessly. The song’s excellence still being amply evident, it went on to become one of the most-covered songs the band ever released, and it’s a badge for their determination to persevere in the face of tragedy, however wobbly their very public march towards their own post-Curtis identity was.”
214.? “Cynical Girl,” Marshall Crenshaw.? Songwriter: Marshall Crenshaw; Did Not Chart; 1981. The television hating Marshall Crenshaw hoped to ditch mass culture with a worldly wise female on “Cynical Girl.” Music journalist Steve Peake, “Crenshaw’s musical tastes run to the melodic and commercially accessible, but they also display a quirky, unexpected edge that makes his work utterly unique. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that on this jangly, upbeat track, Crenshaw extols the many virtues of his ‘Cynical Girl,’ the one who never manages to behave in the ways attractive young women are supposed to and yet casts a spell on him he doesn’t wish to escape. Thematically, it’s Crenshaw at his romantic best, and musically the artist establishes wonderfully churning guitar swirls that betray the power pop sensibilities he’s neither announced nor desired to shake. At its best, Crenshaw’s music is hopeful and optimistic against the often darker, more melancholy impulses in his lyrics.”
213.? “Astro Zombies,” The Misfits.? Songwriter: Glenn Danzig; Did Not Chart; 1982.??The horror punk band The Misfits formed in New Jersey in 1977 and developed a strong visual image with elements of goth that was either very campy or creepy, depending on your perspective.??Aaron Lariviere of Stereogum on “Astro Zombies”, “One of (Glenn) Danzig’s best tricks is his ability to sing a line about the extinction of the human race like he’s belting it out to his girlfriend, Betty Sue, as she drives off into the distance, leaving sad Glenn to weep mascara into his devilock. He imbues so much charisma and heart into every single line, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s singing about something real — and that’s what makes it so magical. All that feeling paired with this melody, and you’ve got a classic Misfits banger fit for the end of the world.” The Misfits also gave the world the murder/rape/death wish anthem “Sweet Caress,” of which author James Green Jr. noted, “The lyrics are delivered by Danzig with such romantic melody that the crimes almost seem like triumphs.”
212.? “(I Got A) Catholic Block,” Sonic Youth.? Songwriter: Thurston Moore; Did Not Chart; 1987.??Much of the appeal of Sonic Youth’s odd guitar tunings and experimentation escaped me, but “Catholic Block” is built around a nasty old fashioned rock guitar riff and provocative lyrics (“I got a Catholic block, do you want to fuck?”). Sonic Youth biographer Stevie Chick, “The influence of hardcore was clearly recognizable; where before, Sonic Youth had ‘rocked’ via their chaotic volume, and the fearsome ambiences evoked, ‘Sister’ was an album of crystalline riffs, orchestrated jags of guitar that thrilled in ways more similar to ‘classic rock’ than the group’s typical No Wave, arty milieu.??‘Catholic Block’ was a case in point, its rushes of discordant guitar racing at Minor Threat velocity, matching a gleeful psychotic lyric that proved that Thurston, like every good Catholic boy, knew the threat of damnation only makes the sin taste much sweeter.”
211.??“Touch Me I’m Sick,” Mudhoney. Songwriters: Mark Arm, Steve Turner, Dan Peters, Matt Lukin; Did Not Chart; 1988.??On the Seattle grunge scale, Mudhoney were much closer to garage rock in spirit than classic rock influenced bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.??The band started at their peak, issuing “Touch Me I’m Sick” as their debut single.??Songwriter Steve Turner, “In retrospect, it’s The Yardbirds’ ‘Happenings Ten Years Time Ago’ by way of the Stooges’ ‘Sick Of You.’ We were never quite able to recapture that sound. I don’t know if it was the guitars or the recording. It was just a really gnarly, gnarly guitar sound. We’ve gotten some since, but they’ve been a different kind. I think it had more to do with the actual electromagnetic chemistry of what was going through our amps that day. It was just a cool, fried-out sound.” Producer Jack Endino, “The UK press went nuts for the Mudhoney single. No one had heard anything like it before. It took me awhile to realize the impact it had. I guess people were kind of whacked over the head by the sound of it. It’s a nasty little record.”