Last week I finished the yearlong journey through the last half-century of music. It was quite the project; 52 weekly columns each taking on a year and culminating in the best five songs of 2018.
Then RIFF’s editor, Roman, asked when I’d have this week’s column in.
So… I guess we’re still doing this?
I’m not really a “planner.” I’m barely a “knows what’s going on right now-er.” What I’m saying is, it’s time to wing it. Now that the one-column-per-year thing is done I’ll just pick a theme every week and pick the top five songs for that.
In honor of my complete and total lack of foresight, the inaugural New RIFF Rewind will be the top five songs I completely forgot in the Old RIFF Rewind. There were a lot, but some have been eating away at me more than the others. And they are…
Rage Against the Machine — “Killing in the Name”
I’m kinda cheating with this one. I did retroactively add it after publication, but I’m so ashamed enough about missing it in the first place that I need to give it another appearance.
I really don’t know how I managed to miss this one at all. Rage Against the Machine’s first album has been one of my favorites since it came out and “Killing in the Name” is the best protest song of all time, narrowly edging out Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.”
It’s also a good thing to listen to when the news gets especially bad. And odds are that’s gonna come up in 2019.
Meat Loaf — “Hot Patootie”
I included a song from second-best-ever musical Hamilton, but I managed to miss the best-ever musical: The Rocky Horror Picture Show. No idea how that could have happened. I’ve seen it so many times I can practically recite the lyrics. I’ve been to my share of midnight shows and even gone in costume.
The temptation is of course to drop “The Time Warp” on here and call it a day, but “Hot Patootie” is the best thing Meat Loaf has ever done. At all! In his life! So bask in it and let it lodge itself firmly in your head for the whole week.
And don’t worry, the costume was Riff Raff. No corsets were involved.
Donna Summer — “Love to Love You Baby”
This song, especially the extended version coming in at just under 17 minutes, is a classic and massively under-appreciated. It’s the rare slow disco song and the last half is mostly just sex noises to a beat. It’s amazing.
So why wasn’t it on the list for 1975? Well, it would’ve been borderline because it was a really good year. It probably could’ve taken the spot currently occupied by the Isley Brothers’ “Fight the Power” in a pinch. But the injustice is that I even left Donna Summer off the Honorable Mentions, which is an injustice I’ve wanted to right ever since.
I blame the fact that I wrote that column in a hotel room in Chicago. I was so full of deep dish pizza I couldn’t think straight. I just got done digesting it last week.
Nirvana — “Sappy”
This didn’t appear on the list because I honestly have no idea when it officially, formally came out. Should it be in 1990 when the first version was recorded? In 1993 when a version recorded during the In Utero sessions appeared on AIDS benefit album No Alternative as “Verse Chorus Verse,” only listed on the liner notes on certain printings and hidden on the others? In 2004 when it was included in Nirvana box set With The Lights Out?
Whenever it actually came out, it exists now and it’s great. One of Kurt Cobain’s best. He could write an early-’60s style rock and roll song better than most in the early ’60s, though he played them with a bit more distortion. (By the way, if you’re into this music history stuff, you’ll love David Gill’s upcoming inaugural Professor Music column, about—you guessed it—distortion). If In Utero wasn’t so great in its released form, I’d wonder how it didn’t make the final cut.
Led Zeppelin — “Dazed and Confused”
As I pointed out in the 1969 column, Led Zeppelin and Led Zeppelin II came out in the same year. Which means I had to pick just one of “Ramble On,” “Dazed and Confused,” “Heartbreaker,” “Good Times Bad Times,” and “Whole Lotta Love.”
I went with “Ramble On” the first time because it’s my favorite but that means the band’s debut album, one of the greatest in classic rock history, went unrepresented. So I’m rectifying that now. And if I find an excuse in a future column I’ll probably add a few more off that list. In fact, I may just list a bunch of Zeppelin songs. I can do that now! I’m free! Free from the constraints of all those rules!
But I also have to come up with themes, so please tweet topic ideas at me so I don’t have to think too much. Thanks in advance.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.