In the interest of full disclosure, let's set the stage for this week's Mix Disc Monday with the admission that I was only 10 years old in 1980 and had really crap taste in music. Okay, it wasn't so much crap as it was based on what was being played on Top 40 radio at the time…which may be a case of "six of one, a half-dozen of the other," depending on your personal opinions. What you have here, then, is a decidedly diverse collection that blends what I was listening to at the time with the stuff that I've since discovered. If you think it's a little heavier on the latter than the former, trust me, you should thank me. Otherwise, you might be listening to Barry Manilow's "I Made It through the Rain" right now.
"Ace of Spades," Motorhead (Ace of Spades)
If you're gonna start things off, start them off right. These guys scared the living hell out of me the first time I ever saw them play (it was when they guested on an episode of "The Young Ones"). Unsurprisingly, my opinion on that front has not changed dramatically.
"Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)," Squeeze
One of the greatest-ever singles from a band who has a lot of really fantastic singles to choose from. I've got a bootleg from the Argybargy tour, and you can't even believe how fast they used to play this song. Of course, they're far slower these days, but, even so, I'm damned glad that Difford and Tilbrook have re-teamed and are touring again as Squeeze.
"You Shook Me All Night Long," AC/DC
(Back in Black)
How timeless is this album? Let's put it this way: my wife and I just bought our daughter a Back in Black t-shirt at Wal-Mart. (The lettering is in pink, naturally.) I could've picked any song from the record and defended it, but I always come back to this one. I think I was in my twenties before I understood the deeper meaning of the lyrics, "She told me to come / But I was already there." But when I finally got them, boy, did I giggle.
"It's Too Late," The Jim Carroll
Band (Catholic Boy)
This song wins out over the oft-played "People Who Died" because of one rhyme: "It's too late / To fall in love with Sharon Tate." That's dark, dude.
"Ride Like the Wind," Christopher
Cross (Christopher Cross)
Say what you will about the man's choirboy-like voice (my wife and I saw him in concert only a few weeks ago, and although he still sounds the same, I observed, "A man that old with a voice that high has to have had his balls lifted"), but he had several really great tunes. Of course, it's not Cross that makes this song; it's the guest vocals from Michael McDonald. When he sings, "Such a long way to go," the border of Mexico has never seemed so far away.
"High Fidelity," Elvis
Costello and the Attractions (Get Happy!!)
Any song which inspires the title of one of my all-time favorite books certainly warrants inclusion. It's also got that great Steve Nieve piano riff, too; I swear, that guy was almost as important to the Attractions as Elvis himself.
"Sometimes a Fantasy," Billy
Joel (Glass Houses)
This is probably my favorite of the singles from Glass Houses because it's the only one I'm not completely and totally sick of hearing. Well, that and because it's got that awesome "whoa-oh-OH-oh" bit in the chorus.
and the Ants (Kings of the Wild Frontier)
I'm embarrassed about it, but I'm not going to lie to you: not only did I not know this track until well into the ‘90s, it was actually Robbie Williams' cover of it that really brought it to my attention. I'm sure there was a video for it, but for the longest time, the only Adam Ant songs I knew were "Strip," "Goody Two Shoes," and "Desperate but Not Serious." In other words, I didn't know Adam until he'd left the Ants behind; it wasn't until 1992, when my friend Corine spoke in such glowing terms of "Stand & Deliver," that I even bothered to investigate his earlier work.
"A Forest," The Cure (Seventeen
It's official: with this album, Robert Smith entered a depression that, to date, he still hasn't emerged from. Okay, so he's not nearly as glum as you'd believe from listening to the Cure's albums from this era. All I know is that something clearly changed between the cheery, chiming "Boys Don't Cry" and this song. I recently heard a cover of it by Josh Rouse, which reminded me of just how good it is. Dark and depressing, but still good.
"Don't Try Suicide," Queen
Possibly my all-time favorite B-side by any band, ever. I know, it's not even that great a song…but when I was in sixth grade, we had a record player in the cafeteria, and kids brought in their 45s to play during lunch, and I lost track of how many times that one got spun. Special kudos to Queen for introducing me to the concept of death at one's own hand at the ripe age of nine.
"She's Got Everything," The
Romantics (The Romantics)
I didn't know this was a Kinks cover for years upon years. I also didn't hear it until 1986, when a local cover band called the Plaad did a version of it and attributed it to the Romantics. (As such, I have to wonder if they knew it was a Kinks cover themselves.) To this day, I don't think I've ever heard the original.
"Suddenly," Olivia Newton-John
and Cliff Richard (Xanadu: From The Original
Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Oh, come on: who doesn't like "Xanadu"? Not long ago, Jason Hare suggested that the song sounded like it could've been written by the Gibb brothers, and, by God, he's right. It might as well be a lost Bee Gees composition, especially that breathy line during the chorus. ("I-ah-ah-HA-ha!") And on that note, Chris Lowe of the Pet Shop Boys once spoke of how there were certain songs he liked solely because of one tiny bit, and that aforementioned breathy line definitely makes "Suddenly" one of those songs for me.
"Let My Love Open the Door," Pete
Townshend (Empty Glass)
I've always loved this song, ever since it was first released, but I didn't find it nearly as poignant until it was used as part of the soundtrack to "Grosse Pointe Blank." Now it just seems about a hundred times sweeter.
"Games Without Frontiers," Peter
Gabriel (Peter Gabriel)
Great song, what with all the wonderful whistling, but surely this conversation has happened more than once:
"Is this the same album that has ‘Solsbury Hill' on it?"
"No, that's Peter Gabriel."
"Oh, so it's the one with ‘On the Air,' then?"
"No, no, you're thinking of Peter Gabriel."
"Right, okay, so you're talking about Peter Gabriel, then. Strange how I get all three of those albums confused."
"All Out of Love," Air Supply
(Lost in Love)
Oh, no: all out of love AND all out of room on my mix disc? Damn. Barry, I swear to God, your song just missed the final cut…