Decades of Flowerbeds: The Top Fourteen Songs at 3:43


12 Ene 2010, 4:52

Note: This is a repost of a journal deleted last week by a renegade Nexus 6 spambot. The original post included some comments, but I don't know if they are ever coming back. If you want to repost anything you already said, please do.

The question of which decade produced the best music is ultimately a matter of taste, but Simon Reynolds has come up with an interesting angle on the topic. In an essay primarily concerned with the fragmentation of popular audiences during the oughts--really part of a longer process of subgenre formation that began a long time ago--Reynolds makes a fascinating argument:

I reckon that if you were to draw up a top 2,000 albums of every pop decade and compare them, the noughties would win: it would beat the 1990s decisively, the 1980s handsomely, and it would thrash the 1970s and 1960s. But I also reckon that if you were to compare the top 200 albums, it'd be the other way around: the 60s would narrowly beat the 70s, the 70s would slightly less narrowly beat the 80s, the 80s would decisively beat the 90s, and the 90s would leave the noughties trailing in the dust. Yeah, it's just a hunch – but it has the ring of truth. Because I think that the higher reaches of a chart of this kind demand something more than mere musical excellence: there has to be an X factor, the hard-to-define quality that you could call "importance" or "greatness".

Reynolds is not making the lazy argument that "music was just better when I was a lad": earlier in the essay, he compares the profusion of excellent recent music as "a flowerbed choked with too many flowers." And I think he's absolutely right, at least for the first half of his claim. It's a simple structural argument: if there is a lot more music than there was before, chances are that, in raw terms, there is more high-quality music around than there used to be. That can be true even if you want to argue that the overall percentage of good music has diminished relative to the whole.

The second half of his case moves from an implied mathematical logic to the slipperier ground of an aesthetics complicated by what might be called critical or cultural agreement. Here, I am less ready to follow his lead. Can we rely on cultural consensus to carry that much weight? Does true greatness depend on that consensus? What if we are wrong? Does a later generation of critics emerge to correct us? It's an interesting idea, and the fact that so many "best" lists resemble each other is evidence that this is how critics actually operate, reaching for consensus unconsciously. (Actually, I suspect that a Platonic ideal of any "best" list is to be both idiosyncratic enough to be interesting, and ordinary enough to maintain the critic's credibility.) There is no reason for me to think I'm any different, despite my efforts to judge each song on its merits. I doubt that can be actually done by anyone immersed in culture.

However, I'm not so sure that "greatness" tracks as well with "importance" as Reynolds assumes. Is it not possible to be important without being great, and vice versa? The "choked flowerbed" is only a problem if you are worried about missing out on some of the prettiest flowers. That's a shame, but isn't it better to have such an abundance of beauty that no one can agree on which flower is the prettiest? I agree more with Patti Smith:

We're in a very democratic era of rock 'n' roll. It's not an era of rock gods. You don't have the, you know, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Grace Slick -- there isn't really the pantheon of rock gods and goddesses that we had in my time. But we have something equally as interesting, and that's the fact that rock 'n' roll is really, more than ever, the people's cultural voice.

You go on MySpace or different websites, and there's thousands and thousands and thousands of people making their own music, expressing themselves, exchanging files and deciding how they want to hear music and how they want to distribute music. Everything is changing, and I think that's fine. Rock 'n' roll was a revolutionary cultural voice that was people-based, and I think the people have taken it over.

A Few Words, and a Little List, About the N/Oughts

I am long out of the business of ranking albums, and there are plenty of decade-ending lists for you to peruse all over the Web. That said, here is a short chronological list of the records that meant the most to me in the past 10 years. Not necessarily the "greatest" or "most important," just the ones that sunk the deepest roots in my personal flowerbed. A few of these are from the end of the 90s, because there's no good reason to exclude them. Commenters, please feel free to add your own.

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea--Neutral Milk Hotel (1998)
69 Love Songs--Magnetic Fields (1999)
Black Foliage--The Olivia Tremor Control (1999)
Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea--PJ Harvey (2000)
The Sophtware Slump--Grandaddy (2000)
The Lemon of Pink--The Books (2003)
Untrue--Burial (2007)
Book of Bad Breaks--Thee More Shallows (2007)
Microcastle/Weird Era Revisited--Deerhunter (2008)

Project Index

The Top Fourteen Songs at 3:43

1) Plus Ones--Okkervil River
A data point for the argument that music has not gotten worse this decade. The lyrical hook of adding one to canonical pop music numbers (100 luftballoons, 8 Chinese brothers, 17 candles, etc.) is one that I wish I would have thought of, but I would never in thousands of tries have been able to write a song this terrific using it. So in retrospect, it’s better for all of us that Will Sheff thought of it first.

Sheff is as good as anybody at internal rhyme, and this song is full of ‘em (“no one wants to hear about your 97th tear”).

2) Higher Ground--Stevie Wonder
In best-decade arguments, few people ever stump for the 70s, but I remember the early 70s as an unacknowledged pinnacle of great top 40 radio. As an eight-year-old, I had no idea that stuff like this mid-career Stevie Wonder song was extraordinary, because it was on all the time. Sure, there's probably some nostalgia at work in that assessment, but just look at this list. Yeah, there’s some crap on it—just as there is in any year. And you won't have to read for very long before you find the crap, heh heh. But behold also the awesomeness, and tell me that top 40 radio in 1973 wouldn’t still be a blast to listen to.

I mean, c’mon: Superfly! Dr. John! Cisco Kid! Little Willy! Dueling Banjos! Sly Stone!

3) Just What I Needed--The Cars
Along with "My Best Friend's Girl," two hits of exactly the same length back-to-back on a debut album, both deploying the same neat trick—the dry staccato plucks of rhythm guitar acting as a subtle carrier of melody. If I had to pick one--and for the purposes of this exercise, I did--it’s "Just What I Needed," because of the wonderful and unexpected way Ben Orr swoops in to sing harmony on “your hair.” That still gives me a nice blush after thirty years. Following up on a recent discussion, do these get played on classic rock stations, or are they too pop?

4) Holiday in Cambodia--Dead Kennedys
We remember SoCal punk as aggressively leftist and reliably anti-Reagan, but those bands didn’t have much affection for comfortable liberal pieties either. The guy in the first verse who listens to “ethnicky jazz” doesn’t strike me as a Reaganite; he’s more of a wannabe-swank Playboy Club hipster. Ultimately I suppose the politics in detail matter much less than the snide commentary on an actual genocidal regime in power contemporaneous with the release of the song, and the bracing horror-punk ride it takes you on.

5) Go Your Own Way--Fleetwood Mac
The titillating partner-swapping Fleetwood Mac story has been done to death. In any case I was never aware of that stuff as a preteen, hearing these songs when they were hits—so I suppose the backstory doesn’t really matter. Or at least not as much as the lovely balance between the rough electric rhythm guitar and bright mandolin, backed by a clean and insistent beat. Am I hallucinating a little bit of proto-R.E.M. in this song?

6) Tokyo--The Books
A song that would not have been made in the 60s because the technology to make it didn’t exist. They had tape manipulations then, to be sure, but not this precise. The technology allows us to think of different things—or rather express different things. I imagine Johns Cage and Lennon (for example) may have thought of this kind of thing, but they couldn’t do it. Critics of electronic/computer-aided music claim that it’s cold; here, snippets of conversations, announcements, and cut-up violin sound dessicated and experimental in theory, but wind up warm and human in the execution.

7) Girl From the North Country--Bob Dylan
Dylan and Cash, two guys who “can’t sing,” singing beautifully together in full-on croon mode. I’ve always loved the sound of Cash’s voice, and while Dylan’s croak is more hit-and-miss, his Nashville Skyline work is my favorite.

8) Clubland--Elvis Costello & the Attractions
I try to stay out of the discussions about who and what is under and overrated, but it seems to me that Trust is underrated even by Elvis fans. As with "Clubland," Costello's music is getting more sophisticated, but it doesn’t lose the immediacy of his early work. A few albums later he would get out of balance with some pointlessly ornate production, but this effortless complexity is hard to find fault with.

9) Blood On The Bluegrass--Th' Legendary Shack*Shakers
The “Natural Born Killers” of jittery, caffeinated murder ballads.

And speaking of pointlessly ornate, I wish this band would standardize how they spell their name. It's different every record; seems to have settled on the spelling that is hardest to type.

10) Bright Yellow Gun--Throwing Muses
The Muses never made a great album, but their best songs are spiked sweet treasures. Yes, I know this comment is a weak addendum to a pretty good song. Sorry.

11) Pocahontas--Johnny Cash
Cash adds dignity to everything he sings. There is absolutely nothing psychedelic about this cover, except for the underlying psychedelia of Johnny Cash singing a song about hanging out with Pocahontas and Marlon Brando at the Astrodome. One of the best Neil Young covers.

12) Dance On--Prince
A good friend of mine—a bigger Prince fan than I am—said he didn’t like this song because he thought it was nothing but electronic guitar gimmicks. I guess I have a higher tolerance for electrogimmickry, especially when it is attached to such a wicked groove.

13) 867-5309 (Jenny)--Tommy Tutone
The 80s’ most outstanding singalong song based around a phone number.

14) Down On The Street--The Stooges
The missing link between Space Truckin' and Rock Music.

So, does Reynolds have a point? Or do you lean more toward Patti Smith's hippie utopianism? Looking forward as always to your comments.
Envíos aceptados
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  • Auto_Da_Fe

    Can't remember what all I wrote before - a bit about Simon Reynolds, including recommending his book about postpunk, and a bit about phone numbers. And some thing about the late 80s / early 90s being a relative desert for good music. And a (rather overlong) list of great songs at this length, by decade: from the 1960s (2): Bob Dylan - Obviously Five Believers (1966) The Turtles - There You Sit Lonely (1969) from the 1970s (8): Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Helpless (1970) Gong - Est-ce que je suis? (1970) Cockney Rebel - Judy Teen (1974) Lou Reed - Ennui (1974) Swamp Dogg - Buzzard Luck (1974) Mink DeVille - Spanish Stroll (1977) Pere Ubu - Blow Daddy-o (1978) Captain Beefheart - Harry Irene (1979) from the 1980s (4): The Thompson Twins - Make Believe (1981) The Fall - 2 by 4 (1984) The Beloved - A Hundred Words (1986) Yeah Jazz - This Is Not Love (1988) from the 1990s (7): Einstürzende Neubauten - Zebulon (1992) Long Fin Killie - (A) Man Ray (1995) Modest Mouse - Novocain Stain (1996) Ithaka - Substance-Free Exile (1997) Modest Mouse - Long Distance Drunk (1997) Maria Napoleon - Mandalay Cow (1998) Hefner - The Hymn For The Alcohol (1999) from the 2000s (9) Johnny Cash - I See a Darkness (2000) Herman Düne - New Jersey Cross Concrete (2003) The Hold Steady - Hostile, Mass. (2004) The Mountain Goats - Against Pollution (2004) Sun Kil Moon - Space Travel Is Boring (2005) Darren Hayman - That's Not What She's Like (2006) André Herman Düne - We Dress Up Like Snowmen (2006) Vert - Gretschen Askew (2006) The Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride (2007) and that's enough for now!

    12 Ene 2010, 15:35
  • rockrobster23

    A couple of initial impressions: 1) Cockney Rebel seems to be one of dozens of early-mid 70s bands I am unfamiliar with that seem to prefigure punk, or at least the poppier side of it. (Mink DeVille, too, although I know about them a little already.) James, if you wrote a book about the 70s, I bet I would learn a lot. 2) "Zebulon" mixes electronic and gospel-ish textures in a way that Moby would later take to the bank. My impression of Einstürzende Neubauten is that they are generally harsher-sounding than this. Correct or not?

    12 Ene 2010, 19:25
  • Auto_Da_Fe

    Early Neubauten was very industrial, later they got artier - and to my mind much more pleasing to listen to.

    13 Ene 2010, 10:20
  • masto65

    Wow awesome post. Sorry I missed out on the other comments. As far as the discussion I will have to give it some thought but I think they both are valid points, but I agree with you that importance and greatness are not the same thing. You guys posted a lot of great stuff and stuff that might have made the cut. As always I steered clear of the posted stuff to try and add something to the list that isnt there. So here we go. Know Your Rights • The Clash Hey, it's the Clash of course they are going to make the cut. I will say that this is one of their songs that I think I like better now than I did when it came out. Makes more sense now than when I was 17. Silo • Scud Mountain Boys Pretty song about burning down the farm and killing the livestock when the woman in his life leaves him. Folky country gem by some New Englanders sitting around their kithcen table. Holding Sand • Rival Schools Killer track off of what I think is one of the stronger albums of the decade. The weak spots are minnimal by this only disc of East Coast hardcore alumni (ex Quicksand, Gorrilla Biscuits, CIV) It's a solid disc. The guitar in the chorus of this song is one of my favorite. When it hits it is just an awesome slab of guitar. It almost sounds like a run at the dragstrip. No Love Lost • Joy Division One of my faves. Lets you remember it wasn't all "Closer" gloom. Play it with 2 dozen songs from '78 to remind you just how ahead of the curve they were. Need You Around • Smoking Popes Made the break with all the other pop punk bands that got signed in the wake of Green Day. One of the better in part by the vocal delivery of Josh Caterer. Why more bands haven't figured out the crooning over punk riffs is a good call I will never understand. Perfect Day • Lou Reed Lou in some of his post-Velvets best. A agregate of styles that works well in his hands. The Undertow • The Feelies Classic Feelies. One of the best tracks on probably my least favorite album. Which is still better than most bands best output. Love their build up of songs. They don't just play songs they seem to paint them. Doreen • Old 97's The blue grassy version is better but still a great song from a band that I have put on these lists with alarming frequency Combination • Aerosmith I have a soft spot for the first couple Aerosmith albums. Rocks is IMHO the best album they ever released. This song is still one I crank up. It just is nuts on great. The opening riff alone just sets the tone for the whole thing. I'm on Fire • Chelsea One of the also-rans out of the first wave of English Punk. Overall their output is respectable (holding up better than a lot of their peers. I'm looking at you Sham69) but this track is my fave. I fell for this song when I saw them play it live in Urgh! a Music War. The song is just a stand out. I want to comment on some of the other comments but if I add them here I will just end up putting off posting this longer than I want. So I will come back to haunt the journal a little latter. Masto.

    15 Ene 2010, 6:36
  • LisaV

    I like the Patti Smith quote. I am going to steal James' method and also say it was to test out the decade theory (although the results from my library at all other times probably would have been the same with the 70's and the 00's winning - maybe more 60's overall too) Really it's more out of laziness and the fact that I've got a bunch of repeats I don't want to take out now :) So here's "the best" of my library by decade at this length not necessarily factoring in "greatness" because that definitely influences my tastes but I like a lot of "simple" R&B and pop songs and I don't know that the "greatness" of them has much to do with it... 60's (2) Domingo No Parque - Gilberto Gil (1968) Rockin’ Chair - The Band (1969) 70's (8) If Dogs Run Free - Bob Dylan (1970) Sunday - Nick Drake (1970) Down On The Street - The Stooges (1970) On the Way Home - Neil Young (1971) Personality Crisis - New York Dolls (1973) Who's Sorry Now - Jerry Lee Lewis (1977) Just What I Needed - The Cars (1978) 5.45 - Gang of Four (1979) 80's (3) Know Your Rights - The Clash (1982) The Undertow - The Feelies (1988) Another Day - Galaxie 500 (1989) 90's (3) You Belong To Me - Flat Duo Jets (1991) Mrs. Robinson - The Lemonheads (1992) Telephone Road - Steve Earle (1997) 00's (8) Stop - The Dirtbombs (2003) There's A Story In Your Voice - Elvis Costello & The Imposters (2004) Against Pollution - The Mountain Goats (2004) Beat Me to It - Crystal Skulls (2005) Designs On You - Old 97's (2005) My First Time Volume 3 - Spoon (2005) Lover - Devendra Banhart (2007) Heretic Pride - The Mountain Goats (2008)

    15 Ene 2010, 7:14
  • rockrobster23

    Hey! Two mentions of "Know Your Rights." Y'know, I never really gave *Combat Rock* much of a chance, and here is my excuse: I got gloriously lost in *Sandinista!* and never found my way out. You may not buy that excuse, but that's the only one I have. Rich, I think you and I are in the minority on Aerosmith love. They have yet to be rediscovered and/or reappropriated by hipsters, ironically or otherwise. And if they were to be loved ironically, the latter half of their career, distinguished by such horrible cheese as "Love in an Elevator," is riper than the higher-quality first half. So, while there is little hope for a critical reappraisal, they still rock. Lisa, you mention that your favorite decades are the 70s and 00s. Do you see any parallels between them? Common elements that tickle your sweet spot in the same way? Or are they more or less responsible for different kinds of pleasure?

    16 Ene 2010, 6:42
  • Auto_Da_Fe

    Masto, Chelsea headlined the first punk gig I attended (must have been Feb or Mar 77), which was awfully exciting. They were indeed also-rans. Must say I still enjoy listening to a bit of Sham though. Don't think I even knew a fourth Feelies album existed, The Undertow sounds like it has all the right elements of Feeliness.

    16 Ene 2010, 10:53
  • LisaV

    How can anyone not love a "public service announcement WITH GUITAR"? Do bad Clash songs exist? I'm not sure. Some are definitely a cut above but none annoy at least a few songs from the canon of every one of my other favorite, prolific artists. "Joey", for example, on Desire..."A Man Needs A Maid" is kind of annoying...along with a few other Neil Young songs...Beatles certainly had several I never want to hear. Joe Strummer stands apart in this regard. But I guess it's not like I've heard every Clash recording... I think that's how I'm feeling about more punk and garage stuff these days and why the 70's and 00's win out. The same formula can be used over and over with variation but it's never going to annoy me if it doesn't suck and it's pop punk or R&B-based garage rock/punk. If you look at the stuff in my library from it's early days, you can see I was listening to only classic rock and blues - that's all from my older brother and the fact that I was a big hippie out in the rural suburbs rather than a punk as a teen :) My older brother always used to refer to Aerosmith as the poor man's Rolling Stones. I guess I was tainted by that opinion and stuck with it. From what I've heard I recognize that they rocked early on without the accompanying bad taste left in my mouth more by recent Amaza-crazy power ballads than even "Love in an Elevator" and the like because I won't say I wasn't intrigued by seeing that on MTV at like 8 years old :)

    16 Ene 2010, 20:03
  • rockrobster23

    So, the 70s and 00s are the big sweet spots for your favorite genres? Punk I can see, as just about everybody with even a passing interest seems to prefer one era over others. Garage rock, on the other hand, never seems to have died, or really changed a whole lot, although it has gone in and out of fashion. Was there a long dead spot for you in the 80s and 90s with garage rock? Or maybe not dead, just more fallow? Curious, not trying to back you into a corner, although it sort of sounds like that. I have heard that "Aerosmith as the poor man's Stones" thing before, but I don't really get it. Yes, there is some resemblance: Stephen Tyler obviously learned a lot from Jagger, and he's got those lips too. But musically, the Stones were so much more deeply rooted in blues...most people probably wouldn't think of the Stones as "hard rock," while Aerosmith arguably were one of a handful of bands that epitomized that sound. I'm not saying that Aerosmith was a better band than the Stones; it's not even close. Just that they don't strike me as especially comparable. I was trying to think of a better comp, but nothing is coming to mind. The Yardbirds? Bad Company? Blue Oyster Cult? Something in that nexus, but none of those comps seem very close either. Few hard rock bands of the time escaped the monumental influence of Led Zep, but that's no closer. Does that mean that Aerosmith is more original that I would have thought, or am I missing something obvious?

    18 Ene 2010, 8:08
  • masto65

    Wow, so many comments to make not sure were to start. So I apologize up front if this strays from thought to thought.... Damn I started this at 9 this morning and I have not gotten a break to finish. I am going home and will try this again.

    19 Ene 2010, 0:28
  • masto65

    Okay let's try this again. First off. As far as a stronger decade, that's tough. As much as a agree with James as far as the late 80's early 90's being as wasteland for good music you still have the gems hidden in there. Dinosaur Jr comes immediately to mind. Throw in some Galaxie 500, Guadalcanal Diary, Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, GBV, Nirvana, Meat Puppets, hell even R.E.M and it doesn't look all that dire. But comparatively it's light. The sheer numbers of early 80's stuff way out weights the later half of the decade. But I think you see this in all decades. 60-64? not a lot of stellar stuff. I think early 70's has some great stuff but it's a small cast of characters compared to 77 on. I will agree that this last decade has been pretty strong. But I think you have to place the reason for the dissolution of record companies and radio and the rise of the internet. It's all about the niche market now. Couple other things to throw out there. I agree Aerosmith doesn't get a lot of love because I think everyone calls to mind the Run DMC version of "Walk this Way" and the later "Love in a Elevator" MTV staples. Go back and listen to the early stuff and it is much more grittier than the slickly produced 80's output. I have never heard the Stones comment but I don't see a lot of it. That early stuff is way more crunchier. Especially "Rocks". "Rats in the Cellar" considering this disc came out in 76' is almost a proto-punk number. "Toys in the Attic" way to rockin' plus the hooks almost want to move into Cheap Trick territory. Yeah the early stuff has that R&B bluesy back bone but too hard rock for me to make the Stones comparison valid. And James I am right with you as far as Sham. "Tell us the Truth" is a disc I still love. I would put it up against the rest of that first wave and I think it would hold up great. My comment had more to do with their overall output. And after "Tell us..." it tanks rapidly in my book. Some of it is just horrid. Where the Chelsea stuff is just across the board. Not quite the hits and misses of Sham. Of course small output too. Lastly "Combat Rock" has some great cuts on it. "Red Angel Dragnet" and "Ghetto Defendant" stand out in my mind. I think you might need to give it a spin. Lisa is right how do you not like song that starts off claiming it's a public service announcement. There is a couple of Clash songs that are less than thrilling but they are far and few between. But she brings up a fun question. Give us your top 5 songs that annoy the crap out of you by bands you love. That could be an interesting list. Come on Lisa "Man Needs a Maid" you can do better than that from Neil. And I say this as a dyed in the wool Neil fan. I like "..Maid" Mmmmm... lets see I will use that to start the list of my top 5 annoying songs by artists I love. Neil Young • T Bone Bob Dylan • Rainy Day Women Nos 12 & 35 Talking Heads • Stay up Late David Bowie • China Girl PJ Harvey • Pig Will Not Wow that was kind of tough.

    19 Ene 2010, 6:37
  • rockrobster23

    My only quibble with the "dry stretch" observations about decades or parts of decades is this: I think that we look for what "major figures" (whichever those are in our personal artistic pantheons) are doing in those dry stretches, and if there's not a lot of activity, we think of it as a dry stretch. That's natural and understandable, but part of the point of my comment about "Higher Ground" was to show how, even in a dry stretch, there's such an amazing amount of great stuff. I would not have expected the 1973 charts to be so interesting, but thinking back, I remember all of those songs being played on the radio. I just didn't think that was extraordinary at the time. Another part of that tendency may be our rock nerd propensity to look for great albums rather than great my library, at least, there's not a lot of what I would consider great albums in the early 70s: some Zep, BOC, Bowie, Floyd, Stones (wow, sort of a classic rock "usual suspects," isn't it?), but less than in other eras. Some people may consider that time the absolute pinnacle of music, but that's not the point--they have their own dry stretches elsewhere. I like this game, most annoying songs by loved artists. Going by most plays: 1) Guided By Voices: Ah, that's hardly fair. They have hundreds of thousands of songs. Bound to be clunkers in there. 2) Pavement: The middle third of *Brighten the Corners* is pretty boring, but I'll go with "Carrot Rope" from *Terror Twilight*. 3) Costello & the Attractions: "Everyday I Write the Book" 4) X: Wow, hard to come up with anything, as the first four albums are perfect. Guess it would have to be something off *Ain't Love Grand*, but I have listened to it so little, I can't pick anything. 5) Alright, this is just flat-out cheating. I can't come up with anything for these top bands. Looking down the list, let's see...Hüsker Dü: "Hate Paper Doll." This exercise is harder than it looks.

    19 Ene 2010, 7:43
  • LisaV

    Sadly I am also too busy with real work to add to my vague response about why the 70's and 00's might have more stuff in my library and answer the question about whether other decades are just "fallow" (nice word btw) in my library...and about my brother and Aerosmith :) I kind of object to A Man Needs A Maid for a variety of reasons as a female...haha...not just because it's overly dramatic even for my threshold of drama I can take from Neil (which is probably higher than average) This lyric for example! Just someone to keep my house clean, Fix my meals and go away

    19 Ene 2010, 17:31
  • masto65

    Haaahaa. Okay overly dramatic: check. But as far as the lyrics go I like them. Let's put them all down so we have some context. I don't see a problem here. I get it; guy not sure about the direction of his life; he wants to be with someone but hes just not ready yet. Why not a maid? Take care of his domestic needs with out the emotional attachment. Of course the end becomes a mystery. Who does he want to see again? The actress? Maybe the Ex? or is it the maid? Does the maid even have to be a woman? Now I know he wrote the song after seeing the soon to be mother of his first child in a movie. So is he wanting the relationship with the actress but afraid to move forward because he hasn't got his shit together yet? The movie was "Diary of a Mad Housewife" about a woman who seeks therapy about her loveless marriage. Only to realize all the men in her life are equally uninterested in her. Does this play into the lyrics? Oh well, I have wasted my lunch pondering this. Any one else with any ideas want to add to this? /scratches head/ Masto. My life is changing in so many ways I don't know who to trust anymore There's a shadow running thru my days Like a beggar going from door to door. I was thinking that maybe I'd get a maid Find a place nearby for her to stay. Just someone to keep my house clean, Fix my meals and go away. A maid. A man needs a maid. A maid. It's hard to make that change When life and love turns strange. And old. To give a love, you gotta live a love. To live a love, you gotta be "part of" When will I see you again? A while ago somewhere I don't know when I was watching a movie with a friend. I fell in love with the actress. She was playing a part that I could understand. A maid. A man needs a maid. A maid. When will I see you again?

    19 Ene 2010, 19:58
  • masto65

    Damn I originally came here to make this comment before getting sidetracked. Damn you Lisa. /shakes fist/ Rob I needed to correct you on your proclamation of "867-5309" as being the most outstanding 80's sing-along based on a phone number. I am sorry to correct you on this but last time I looked into this it was a draw between "867-5309" by Tommy Tutone and "606-0842" by the B-52s. Sorry, you were so close. But a years supply of Turtle Wax will be shipped to your home in appreciation for playing the game.

    19 Ene 2010, 20:06
  • masto65

    OH! just got a phone call from the judges and it appears you were correct sir. "6060-842" was released in July of 79. Making it 5 month premature therefore making it ineligible for the category of "Most Outstanding 80's Sing-along of a Song Based on a Phone Number." Congratulations. All titles and prized will be returned to you posthaste.

    19 Ene 2010, 20:11
  • rockrobster23

    Ha! I was just about to make that point. 1979, baby! Ack, the boomers' cultural hegemony certainly clouds that picture. But their power is fading. And the fragmentation that Reynolds talks about makes it nearly impossible for any age cohort to impose a unifying stamp on mass culture. Also, I think it would be easy to construct a compelling argument for ANY decade as "the greatest," because there is no shortage of material to work with. Just tailor the aesthetic judgment to make one era stand out, as some influential Boomers have done with the 60s. As for "A Man Needs a Maid," I have never thought about it much, but looking at the lyrics, it's a little more subtle than I thought. Young realizes that an actual partnership requires work ("to give a love / you gotta live a love"), so it's not like he's some caveman demanding a subservient woman. Lacking the ability or sufficient motivation to hold up his end of a partnership, he literally just wants a maid! Knowing that is not completely satisfactory, but he'll settle for that for now. Payment arrangements are not discussed, but I assume he's not talking about free or coerced labor. But it is whiny. Just put an ad in the paper, Neil. You will find a maid. Although you may need to pay extra to make her endure your doleful bitching about your inability to find a girlfriend. That said, I need a maid. I promise, no doleful bitching. I am a cheerful slob.

    19 Ene 2010, 20:40
  • Auto_Da_Fe

    Haven't had the time that this conversation deserves, but: my top 5 annoying songs by artists I love - The Mountain Goats - Golden Boy Herman Düne - most everything after the brothers fell out, but Baby Baby You're My Baby The Fall - most everything after 1990, but W.M.C. - Blob 59 Mott the Hoople - The Wheel Of The Quivering Meat Conception Microdisney - the last album, but Herr Direktor

    22 Ene 2010, 21:56
  • Auto_Da_Fe

    Rob - "in my library, at least, there's not a lot of what I would consider great albums in the early 70s: some Zep, BOC, Bowie, Floyd, Stones (wow, sort of a classic rock "usual suspects," isn't it?), but less than in other eras." I would say, consider Kevin Ayers, Bad Company, Brainticket, John Cale, Can, Captain Beefheart, Caravan, Comus, Alice Cooper, Kevin Coyne, Family, Incredible String Band, Jethro Tull, Kilburn & the High Roads, Kraftwerk, Little Feat, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Mott the Hoople, New York Dolls, Randy Newman, Roxy Music, Todd Rundgren, Sparks, Steely Dan, The Stooges, T Rex, Richard & Linda Thompson, Traffic, Trees, Tony Joe White, Robert Wyatt, Frank Zappa and dozens more. I t seems to me, looking back, an incredibly fertile time.

    22 Ene 2010, 22:08
  • rockrobster23

    And there you go--what is nominally a dry stretch for me is someone else's oasis. Except sans Gallagher brothers. Sorry, couldn't resist, go ahead and gong me. Of the bands you list that I am familiar with and enjoy, many are artists from whom I might have a hard time sitting through an entire album. On the other hand, I may not have heard the right albums, either. For example, I have always found Captain Beefheart a tough listen, but apparently I made the mistake (a couple of decades ago) of jumping right in to *Trout Mask Replica*, which I still don't get. Just last week I got *Safe as Milk*, which I am finding completely delightful.

    23 Ene 2010, 6:27
  • LisaV

    I was going to comment about 'Safe as Milk' - saw you listening to it the other day - then I did the same. I agree it is delightful and waaaay easier to love than the other Beefheart stuff, for me at least. I think you would like Kevin Ayers' "Bananamour" (73) if you haven't heard it.

    23 Ene 2010, 17:40
  • Auto_Da_Fe

    on Beefheart, Clear Spot and (my favourite) The Spotlight Kid are a pleasure. TMR is more admirable than listenable I find - though I have yet to rip the vinyl, so haven't played for a few years.

    24 Ene 2010, 9:08
  • rockrobster23

    Thank you for the recommendations--more to explore is always a good thing. Next time will follow up on this discussion with a list of songs at 2:10.

    25 Ene 2010, 22:40
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