Certain Songs #380: Eddie & The Hot Rods – “Do Anything You Wanna Do”

Eddie and the hot rods do anything1 Album: Life on the Line
Year: 1977

By the time mid-1979 rolled around, I was totally in the bag for punk rock or new wave or whatever the hell you wanted to call it. Not so much that I was gonna abandon everything else — never! — but enough that I scoured every month’s CREEM or Trouser Press trying to figure which unheard music I was going try next.

It had gone pretty well with The Clash and Television and Ramones. But what next? Maybe The Jam. Or Talking Heads. Or maybe The Sex Pistols. How about The Shoes? It was a whole new world of music, and I was on limited funds. What I needed was a good sampler. Enter the That Summer! soundtrack.

I don’t remember where I read about it, but it almost certainly was Trouser Press, which I’d started reading almost as religiously as I’d been reading CREEM and Rolling Stone. In any event, That Summer! was a British drama that I’ve still never seen, and whoever the Music Director was for it put together an amazing collection of punk, post-punk and power pop songs that 35 years later is pretty hard to match.

You think I’m kidding? There are a least a half-dozen unimpeachable classics on it, including:

  • Ian Dury & The Blockheads – “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll”
  • Elvis Costello & The Attractions – “(I Don’t Want Go to) Chelsea”
  • The Only Ones – “Another Girl, Another Planet”
  • Ramones – “Rockaway Beach”
  • The Undertones – “Teenage Kicks”
  • Richard Hell & The Voidoids – “Blank Generation”
  • Eddie & The Hot Rods – “Do Anything You Wanna Do”

I mean that right there — with only “Rockaway Beach” being a song I was previously familiar — was worth whatever inflated import price (probably $7.99) I had to pay at Tower Records.

I mean, how do you put a price on finally hearing a song like “Do Anything You Wanna Do,” a stone-cold power pop classic that actually made the U.K. top ten in 1977. As damn well a song like this should do.

I guess that the only thing you really need to know about Eddie & The Hot Rods was that there was never anybody named “Eddie” in the band. The other thing you need to know is this is really the only Eddie & The Hot Rods song you never really need to hear, as the songwriting never quite matched the energy.

But on “Do Anything You Wanna Do,” it all came together, as the guitars rang like clarion calls as lead singer Barrie Masters opened with lyrics that should make sense to any young person ever:

I’m gonna break out of the city
Leave the people here behind
Searching for adventure
It’s the kind of life to find
Tired of doing day jobs
With no thanks for what I do
I know I must be someone
Now I’m gonna find out who

After that, drummer Steve Nicol takes over the song, throwing in rolls and stops and builds throughout as Masters plows into the beginning of the chorus:

Why don’t you ask them what they expect from you ?
Why don’t you tell them what you’re gonna do
You’ll get so lonely, maybe it’s better that way
It ain’t you only, you got something to say

And right there, the chorus builds and stops for just a split-second. And if that was all, it would be enough. With Masters singing with an ache in his voice, as if these thoughts were occuring to him for the very first time and he is completely overwhelmed, the above would have been a good enough chorus, especially with the drum rolls punctuating them throughout.

But instead, hard on the heals of that split-second, they deliver the manifesto:

Do anything you wanna do
Do anything you wanna do

And of course, just for good measure, they toss in handclaps during just this part. Because they clearly, this one time, understood The Handclap Rule.

It is, of course, all a fantasy. And even 17-year-old Jim knew that. But who cares? Everytime those drums rolled or the hands clapped, I was totally down with singing “Do Anything You Wanna Do” as loud as I possibly could.

Fan-made video for “Do Anything You Wanna Do”

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