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Tied to the 90s (Birthday Edition): 30 years, 30 songs–Part I Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Posted by Yostal in 80s, 90s rock, DeadOn's Resident Pop Culture Historian, Gen X&Y, guilty pleasures, more indepth than probably need-be, Posts that should have more humor, Reasons why I am single, rock & roll, Things too long to read, Tied to the 90s, Yostal.
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Tied to the 90s

Welcome back to “Tied to the 90s“, a not-very complete guide to a decade that was. I’m your host, Yostal, and once more, I’ll be taking you through the pop culture landscape of the 1990s. If you have any suggestions for future columns, please email me at GoinYostal@gmail.com or leave me a comment.

This week’s post is perhaps the most self-indulgent effort I have ever made with Tied to the 90s, which I know is saying something. I warn you now, because, well, it’s what I do. But this is the first really good idea I have had for a Tied to the 90s since June, so I’m running with it. I also want to warn you that after the completion of this two part special edition, I’ll be taking a month off. With school starting back up and college football season, my efforts will be needed elsewhere for a little while. Don’t worry, it’s just a hiatus, and I may still post some random other things as the month goes on. So, with all of that out of the way.

At the end of this month, I will turn 29 years old, meaning that I will have been on this earth for 30 distinct calendar years (OK, technically that happened at the beginning of the year, but just roll with me here.) I was struck by that notion and wanted to look at my favorite songs from each of those 30 years. Now, please note I said “favorite”. Not best, not most significant, not most influential, just my favorites. Why they’re favorites can be as simple as I just really like them to having good memories associated with them to something larger. It doesn’t matter. These are just my favorite songs from each of the last 30 years. Now, as always, I can never make this simple, but I did make the rule that once I had used an artist, I could not use them again. I based “year” off the year that the album from which it came was released, and beyond that, I went to town. There’s going to be some crossover from previous columns as you might expect, but I’m going to write all new material about each song, at least as best I can. I fully expect that you will disagree with many of my choices, but it just gives you something to discuss in the comments. So, with no further ado, part I of 30 Years, 30 Songs.

1978: “Who Are You” by The Who from the album Who Are You

Having seen a resurgence in popularity since the decade began due to its use as the theme song to CSI (Original Recipe), this has been a concert staple for The Who since its 1978 release. The notion of Pete Townshend questioning his own place in the rock world and Pete’s penchant for drink both play significant roles in this song. It is also one of the few songs where you can hear multiple audible f-bombs in the lyrics and yet is played unaltered on the radio.
Runners-up: “Life’s Been Good” by Joe Walsh (it was Jimmy James’ campaign theme song after all) and “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” by Warren Zevon (It’s as good a quick fix kit as you can get.)

1979: “I Want You to Want Me” (live) by Cheap Trick from the album Live at Budokan

There is a running joke among my friends about my use of the phrase “I remain fully committed to idea of power pop.” This is my exhibit A. It’s 4 minutes of power pop perfection, straight forward, heartfelt lyrics with a sense of longing, variations within the song, and the really tough “feelingallalonewithoutafriendyouknowyoufeellikedyin” lyric that eventually convinced me not to do it at Pants Party Karaoke night back in May. And really, who among us isn’t willing to go the extra mile for someone we love, even if just means shining up your old brown shoes, putting on a brand new shirt, and getting home early from work?
Runners-up: Wow, I really don’t have a lot here. “London Calling” and “Train in Vain (Stand by Me)” by the Clash (I think they split the vote, leaving the door open for Cheap Trick.)

1980: “What I Like About You” by The Romantics from the album The Romantics

My nod to the City of Detroit, at least within my lifetime. And further proof of concept about myself and power pop. This song has so many wonderful little elements. It has the claps at the beginning, the harmonica solo, the fact that it’s the drummer doing the lead vocals, the fact that playing this on Guitar Hero Encore Rocks the 80s could possibly kill you, the fact that it wasn’t initially popular but made it’s mark through licensing, and the fact that it names one of my guiltiest pleasures, the Amanda Bynes/Jennie Garth sitcom of that name (the Lillix cover that serves as the show’s theme, however, not so much.)
Runners-up: “Romeo and Juliet” by Dire Straits (makes me think of a wonderful person in Chicago), “Let My Love Open the Door” by Pete Townshend (I had to disqualify it under the rules), “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads.

1981: “The Waiting” by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers from the album Hard Promises

I have to admit it, this song was largely picked because of this Simpsons clip (or its non-union Mexican equivalent, because everything is funnier in Spanish.) It was what pushed it out ahead of the runners-up, in one of the closest decisions in the entire field.
Runners-up: “Tempted” by Squeeze (it’s just so time out of mind, it feels like 1994, not 1981, damn you Reality Bites!) “We Got the Beat” by the Go-Gos (a Stevenson football tradition), “Winning” by Santana, and “Lonely is the Night” by Billy Squier (if you can find a better Zeppelin ripoff, buy it.)

1982: “Dirty Laundry” by Don Henley from the album I Can’t Stand Still

I know it’s an easy target and Mr. Henley had his own reasons for writing it, but it’s just so true. Think about it “people love it when you lose/they love dirty laundry” “kick ’em when they’re up, kick ’em when they’re down”, “she can tell you about the plane crash with a gleam in her eye/it’s interesting when people die.” and “we all know that crap is king.” 25 years later, it’s no better. Plus, there’s a great beat in this song. Just an excellent all-around effort.
Runners-up: “Pressure” by Billy Joel (it’s the opening synth line), “A Town Called Malice” by the Jam (it’s just so peppy!), “Under Pressure” by David Bowie and Queen (not even Vanilla Ice can ruin this song), “The Sea Refuses No River” by Pete Townshend (very underrated solo piece by Pete.)

1983: “Pink Houses” by John Cougar Mellencamp from the album Uh-Huh

I am so ashamed of myself…But before Chevrolet ruined him, Mellencamp wrote one of the great “small” songs about the American dream in “Pink Houses” and at the same time is filled with seething Heartland rage. The problem is that Midwesterners are so low key about things, no one seems to notice when they’re pissed. So, you can understand how Ronald Reagan might have missed the point back in 1984 during campaign season.
Runners-up: “Modern Love” by David Bowie (he did start the trivia craze after all.), “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” by Journey (it’s so cheesetastic, I just have to post the video link), “I Love L.A.” by Randy Newman (because, well, it’s used so brilliantly here.)

1984: “Back on the Chain Gang” by The Pretenders from the album Learning to Crawl

This is a small cheat, because the album was a single in 1982, but by my rules, it works. Anyway, I like the Pretenders a lot and this is one of the great reasons why. It’s just so hopeful, if longing about what has been past, and then the ooh-ahh’s in the chorus, and it’s use at the end of the pilot of How I Met Your Mother and yeah, it’s just happy happy.
Runners-up: “Forever Young” by Alphaville (one of the truly great songs of nuclear anxiety), “Tenderness” by General Public (damn peppy), “My City Was Gone” by the Pretenders (better song than this pick, but well, it’s Rush association cost it points.), “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville” by R.E.M. (the band’s already being used elsewhere.), “How Soon is Now” by the Smiths (witches!)

1985: “Bad” (live at Wembley Arena) by U2 from the EP Wide Awake in America

The second song I wrote down when I started this exercise, “Bad”is one of my all-time favorite songs, even if it is about heroin. I chose the live version from Wide Awake in America because the depth added by the pre-recorded rhythm line adds a sense of depth, but it’s still about Edge’s minimalism, and Bono’s full-on passion in the vocals. The song that made U2 at Live-Aid (even if Bono learned why you should never leave the stage (even if it is to save a life), and leave your bandmates to fill for five minutes.) and the song that just reminds me of the majesty and power that a great U2 song can have.
Runners-up: “Brothers in Arms” by Dire Straits (any other year, and this is in the list.), “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News (love Back to the Future), “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves (Fry’s favorite song!), “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears (love Real Genius), Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds (love The Breakfast Club and I have the photos from high school that prove it.)

1986: “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House from the album Crowded House

My friend, the oft-aforementioned Victoria, lists this as a “perfect song” and I find it hard to disagree. It’s just simple, elegant, and sweet. In the end, it’s about wanting to hold on in spite of the obstacles you face, especially in love. It’s just one of those where you know that it’s just right when you hear it.
Runners-up: “The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby and the Range (some love for one of the other great Bruces in American music), “It’s In the Way That You Use It” by Eric Clapton (The Color of Money‘s crowning achievement ), “Cuyahoga” by R.E.M. (see previous R.E.M. issues).

1987: “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” by R.E.M. from the album Document

The first song I wrote down because it remains my favorite. It’s where I learned about the idea of “stream-of-consciousness” so I knew it already when it came up in 10th grade English, it’s where I learned that knowing all the words makes you look like a crazy man, it’s one of Homer Simpson’s favorites, it’s one of the few songs that achieves Gilmore speed of almost 200 words per minute, it’s one of the few songs to reference policy debate in it’s lyrics, and let’s face it, if the apocalypse is coming, it’s the best possible way of looking at it.
Runners-up: I need to look, I didn’t even think to do so before now…”Rain in the Summertime” by the Alarm (it’s like a Welsh U2!), “New Sensation” by INXS (more Australians!), “Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS (because I am a sentimental freak), “Can’t Hardly Wait” by the Replacements (I am an unabashed Mats fan), “Red Hill Mining Town” by U2 (in my top three for U2).

1988: “Cult of Personality” by Living Colour from the album Vivid

1988 was one of the hardest years to pick because I only have 23 songs from that year on my iTunes, three of which are R.E.M. and five of which are U2, so that left a very small field. And while there are three exceptionally important songs from 1988 (“Jane Says” by Jane’s Addiction, “Where is My Mind” by The Pixies, and “Teen Age Riot” by Sonic Youth), I am not a huge fan of any of them. For a while, the winner was Roy Orbison’s “You Got It“, but in the end, my love for crazy guitar solos and name dropping 20th Century political figures won out. You open with a Malcolm X snippet, you get references to Il Duce and Stalin, and you close with a Kennedy snippet. You also get a kick ass guitar solo in the middle. We have a winner.
Runners-up: All of the aforementioned songs, plus “All I Want is You” by U2 (again, sentimental freak) and “Orange Crush” by R.E.M. (follow me, don’t follow me)

1989: “Rockin’ in the Free World” by Neil Young from the album Freedom

This was all set to be “Running Down a Dream” and then I realized that it would be cheating to include Tom Petty and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Then it was going to be “Darlin’ One” by The Replacements, but ironically it was shot down as a replacement because Paul Westerberg is being used later, and even Leah would call me out for that cheat. So then it was going to be “Wicked Game” by Chris Issak, which has the damn sexiest video, but it’s really more of a 1991 song. So it’s this, one of the great angry yet hopeful songs. It points out the problems that America clearly has, drug abuse, treatment of veterans, drug use, a litany of faults, and yet, there it is. If you want to read it as irony, it can be read that way, but if you want to see it as the idea that for all of the problems that exist, the fact that we can keep on rockin’ in the free world, that we have that right, well, that works too.
Runners-up: All of the aforementioned songs, plus “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Bill Joel (I am a history teacher after all), and “Here Comes Your Man” by the Pixies (my favorite Pixies track),

1990: “There She Goes” by The La’s from the album The La’s

Again, this is the tyranny of too few choices really. So what I ended up with is a song that has no verses, just chorus, light and amazingly not about heroin. A wonderful effort by a band from Liverpool. Plus, it figures into both the movie Fever Pitch (the good 1997 one, not the evil 2005 one) and the classic So I Married an Axe Murderer.
Runners-up:Jealous Again” by The Black Crowes (nearly won out), “Say Hello 2 Heaven” by Temple of the Dog (total credit to Sirius 24 for that pickup), “Birdhouse in Your Soul” by They Might Be Giants (“Not too point too fine a point on it, say I’m another the only bee in your bonnet.” Always loved the joy of that line.)

1991: “Alive” by Pearl Jam from the album Ten

1991 is the watershed year of music, fitting comfortably into its spot in the 12 year peak cycle of rock and roll (1955-1967-1979-1991-2003, each year marking a major watershed in the history of rock and roll.) I have 58 songs in my iTunes for 1991 under the category alt. rock that could fit the bill. Think about it…Nevermind, Out of Time, Ten, Girlfriend, Achtung Baby, The Black Album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Blue Lines, Fear. That’s one of the deepest album benches in history. So how do I make a choice in this watershed year? Well, U2 and R.E.M. have already been used, so that’s good…Toad has a spot reserved for them own the line. So this comes down to a very few choices. You’ll note the very strong runners-up list, but in the end I went with something that has been a favorite of mine pretty much since it debuted. “Alive” is everything I love about a Pearl Jam track. The way Eddie Vedder’s vocals inflecting over the guitar work, infusing the song with the passion and energy it demands, the exceptional KISS/Hendrix inspired guitar solo, the overall way that this track always makes my ears perk up when I hear it on the radio. In the end, it won the day.
Runners-up: “Girlfriend” by Matthew Sweet (even if it kills me on GH2 every time), “Only Shallow” by My Bloody Valentine (Irish shoegazing at its finest), “Lithium” by Nirvana (I’ve always liked it better than “Smells Like Teen Spirit”), “Country Feedback” by R.E.M. (my second favorite R.E.M. track), “Until the End of the World” by U2 (or hell, anything off Achtung), “All I Want” by Toad the Wet Sprocket (many memories.)

1992: “Waiting for Somebody” by Paul Westerberg from the original motion picture soundtrack Singles

I know this is mostly because I love the movie Singles, but I’ve just also always love the lyrically message in this song. Every line of this song has spoken to me at some point in my life, and it’s just still so upbeat and positive, because it could still happen, it could still be out there…All my life, waiting for somebody.
Runners-up: “Black Metallic” by Catherine Wheel (a recent addition, but damn it’s good…), “Allison Road” by the Gin Blossoms (vastly underrated), “Breath” by Pearl Jam (another classic from Singles), “These Are Days” by 10,000 Maniacs (my favorite May song.)

That’s all I have for this week. I genuinely hoped you enjoyed it, and please come back next week for another edition of “Tied to the 90s”. Until the next time, this has been Subcommandante Yostal, logging off.



1. steve - Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Excellent list Yost. I’m going to don my “steve is a pearl jam nerd” hat here for additional coverage.

The solo on Alive was undoubtedly KISS inspired (specifically, the song “She” which Mike has openly admitted). But “She” was inspired by The Doors “Five to One”.

..and of course everything is inspired by Hendrix.

2. Yostal - Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Thanks Steve. PJ nerddom is always welcome here.

3. Bort - Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Great concept, great list. ITA with your assessment of John Mellencamp as the angry Midwesterner – he’s very iconic for the era of Farm Aid and the harsh changes in rural life seen in the 1980’s. I’d trade “Orange Crush” for “It’s the end of the world as we know it” as the REM song, but that’s minor.

And in a list of fifteen songs, you pick two songs that have been covered by Sixpence None the Richer?

4. spankyjoe - Wednesday, August 22, 2007

“.. this was 1980, 1981, perhaps.. years before the big trivia craze. But then Bowie always was a trendsetter.”

Long-Time Companda applauds your efforts this week.

5. Yostal - Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bort–Good point. If you look at Seger, for example, “I Feel Like a Number” is also full of Midwestern rage, but from a completely different angle. The Pretenders’, specifically Chrissy Hynde, also had a similar assessment in “My City Was Gone”, so it was by no means just Mellencamp.

spankyjoe–I’m so glad someone appreciated that joke.

6. heyzeus - Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the lyric in “Birdhouse in your Soul” is:

“Not to put too fine a point on it
Say I’m the only bee in your bonnet”

7. Yostal - Wednesday, August 22, 2007

heyzeus–You’re right, darn it. This is what I get for working on this at 3 AM.

8. DougOLis - Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Awesomeness. Mitch Yost is back in the game.

I just saw The Pretenders last weekend with ZZ Top, Stray Cats, and REO Speedwagon.

9. lenoceur - Thursday, August 23, 2007

Great list.

I always heard “Keep on Rockin in the Free World” differently, though–without the hope. It always seemed to me to be a very harsh criticism of American materialistic/pop culture. That despite these glaring, obvious, in-your-face problems like homelessness and drugs, Americans as a whole weren’t going to do anything about them because they are too busy rockin. We come up with a catchy slogan–“Thousand Points of Light,” or “Just Say No” and go on with our lives exactly as before.

I love that song.

10. spankyjoe - Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pitchfork would say I have a total Rockist bias. They’d probably be right. I’m also really kinda bummed that I was born in ’81, because that cuts out Bowie’s Berlin period and afterwards for me. I would love to include something off of Scary Monsters.

1981 – “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” The Police, Ghost in the Machine. (I can’t help it. I’m a sucker. I originally wanted to put “Demolition Man,” but I knew I’d be lying.)
1982 – “The Chaufeur,” Duran Duran, Rio
1983 – “Oh, Me,” The Meat Puppets, II
1984 – “The Call of Ktulu,” Metallica, Ride the Lightning (Narrowly edging out “Sixteen Blue,” and/or “Answering Machine” by the ‘Mats.)
1985 – “The Power of Love,” Huey Lewis and the News, Back to the Future Soundtrack (Sorry, can’t resist)
1986 – “Angel of Death,” Slayer, Reign in Blood
1987 – “Rocket Queen,” Guns ‘N’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction
1988 – “Evil Thing,” Danzig, Danzig
1989 – “Fascination Street,” The Cure, Disintegration
1990 – “Waiting for the Night,” Depeche Mode, Violator (Dr. Girlfriend: Oh yeah, that guy’s totally straight. I saw a whole thing about him on the VH-1.
The Monarch: But he’s the guy from Depeche Mode! That’s impossible!
Dr. Girlfriend: …straight! )
1991 – “Until the End of the World,” U2, Achtung Baby!
1992 – “Walk,” Pantera, Vulgar Display of Power

PJ-nerd-dom special trivia: I saw PJ play a Halloween show in 2000 at Shoreview in NorCal, and they came out as the Village People for their encore. Mike dressed as the biker in a speedo and some chaps, and Stone was kind enough to pull down said speedo during the “Alive” solo. Mike finished the song hiding behind the Stage Right monitors with the speedo around his ankles, with Eddie giggling helplessly…

11. steve - Thursday, August 23, 2007

@spankyjoe: I was at the 2000 Shoreline show… also an awesome quote from Ed:

There is a guy in the crowd with a gold lamee cape with a sign that says ‘Will work for prescription drugs’

12. steve - Thursday, August 23, 2007

As a matter of fact, I just fired that show up in my iTunes. This should last me until lunch.

13. spankyjoe - Thursday, August 23, 2007

Shoreline, not Shoreview. Argh.

Nice catch, steve.

Further related PJ – while they didn’t play “Who Are You,” PJ threw in more than one Who song into that particular setlist – “The Kids Are Alright,” and “Baba O’Riley.”

14. Yostal - Thursday, August 23, 2007

lenoceur–The reason I read hope into it, in spite of everything you point out, all of which is valid, is that there aren’t that many places in the world where you could express your frustrations with your government or your society in song, just in the free world.

15. Greek McPapadopoulos - Friday, August 24, 2007

I enjoyed the list. Good work Yostal, though I think karma will bite you for not choosing a Clash track for ’79 (I don’t care if the vote was split!)

And I never miss a chance for PJ nerddom–Mike of course does the incredible solo (one of my top 3 favorites), but Stone wrote and plays the main riff (as he does with “Even Flow” as well). I was also going to correct spankyjoe for a second on the song title, then I realized he wasn’t referring to the Pearl Jam original, but the Who song.

16. chicagometallic - Sunday, April 13, 2008

Great concept, great list.

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