Certain Songs #932: Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul – “Men Without Women”

Album: Men Without Women
Year: 1982

Guitarist, songwriter, actor, producer, broadcaster, raconteur and the only human being ever who could claim to be the consigliere to both Bruce Springsteen and Tony Soprano, Steven Van Zandt has had such a wide and varied career that it’s amazing it took Springsteen until 2010 to write a song called “Jack of All Trades.”

None of this was apparent, of course, when Van Zandt took his leave of his boss to put out his first solo album, 1982’s stellar Men Without Women.

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Certain Songs #931: Little Roger & The Goosebumps – “Gilligan’s Island (Stairway)”

Single, 1978

If there were two things that were utterly inescapable in the 1970’s, those two things were hearing “Stairway to Heaven” on the radio and reruns of Gilligan’s Island on TV.

As someone who experienced shitloads of both throughout that decade, I can’t tell you how pleased I was when I first heard this on the radio. Who would have thought that you could combine two totally different pieces of music — the words from the theme song of Gilligan’s Island and the music of “Stairway to Heaven” — to create a third one?

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Certain Songs #930: Little Richard – “Good Golly, Miss Molly”

Single, 1958

Like all of Little Richard’s greatest songs, “Good Golly, Miss Molly” is a pure unfettered jolt of adrenaline and energy.

With Richard himself leading the musical attack on the piano and drummer Earl Brown doing some serious demolition in between leading the band in and out of all of the stop times, “Good Golly, Miss Molly” must of felt so weird and wild that nobody noticed how incredibly dirty it was.

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Certain Songs #929: Little Girls – “The Earthquake Song”

Album: Rodney on the Roq, Volume 2
Year: 1981

I didn’t grow up in Los Angeles, but even in Fresno, the legend of KROQ and their tastemaking DJ, Rodney Bingenheimer was a part of the 1980s alt-rock scene. As one of the first “commercial alternative” radio stations serving one of the largest markets in the world, KROQ was a 400-pound gorilla wading through a pool of guppies.

Which was why they got to put out compilation albums that were basically glorified mix tapes of one dude’s taste. “Rodney on the Roq” is, of course, a thing that literally just ended a couple of months ago, long after Bingenheimer had any kind of cultural influence, but there is also no doubt that he did back in the day. (And no, I’ve never seen Mayor of the Sunset Strip.)

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Certain Songs #928: Lily Allen – “The Fear”

Album: It’s Not Me, It’s You
Year: 2009

Lily Allen is probably my favorite of the post-millennial pop stars.

An unique combination of big shiny pop hooks, smart-ass lyrics and the kind of cheerful cheekiness that only Brits can ever get away with, Lily Allen put it all together on her second album, 2009’s It’s Not Me, It’s You.

On her best song, the etherial “The Fear,” she sends up the pop stars and celebs of her generation for their supreme superficiality while not fully excluding herself from the equation.

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