Using my vast accumulated repository of recorded sounds, I selected one song from each year I have been alive. The rules:
- No covers.
- Limit one song per artist.
- All songs are to be selected sincerely, with neither irony or sarcasm intended.
Having disseminated the last of the copies last night, I figured it was time to let you, the public, into my world. What follows are the track listings for the CDs, along with selected commentary on each song.
1977—Iggy Pop, “Lust for Life”
The best damn rock song ever. I count myself lucky that I was able to include it in this project.
1978—Kenny Rogers, “The Gambler”
Some of these early ones are chosen through some amalgam of necessity and paucity of possibilities. Still, taken on its own, this is a solid song that has become a trademark for its performer, and really, you could do worse.
1979—The Clash, “London Calling”
I’m not above easy and obvious when it suits me.
1980—Dead Kennedys, “Holiday In Cambodia”
Rip-roarin' fun. Even angrier than it appears on the surface, which is kind of an accomplishment. Probably the only anti-Communist song that would have made Ronald Reagan throw up.
1981—Elvis Costello, “Good Year For The Roses”
If this were the NFL Draft, this would be the archetypal "need pick". I wanted some Elvis Costello on here, certainly, and I had almost nothing else for 1981. Given my druthers, I would probably have gone with “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea”, “Man Out of Time”, or “Tokyo Storm Warning”, but I couldn’t pass up the rather necessary two-birds-with-one-stone aspect.
1982—Madness, “Our House”
Apparently Madness have always been a significantly bigger deal in the UK than here, where they’re pretty much regarded as a one-hit wonder. You know what? When your one hit is as good as this, that’s OK.
1983—Michael Jackson, “Billie Jean”
Try to listen without prejudice, without all the layers of baggage that have built up around the man, and you know what? That's a great goddamn song.
1984—Prince, “When Doves Cry”
I like it better than “Purple Rain”. Nothing deeper than that.
1985—The Smiths, “How Soon Is Now?”
Arguably my (and so many others') theme song, if this didn't define your life--probably in high school--at least a little bit, I'm not sure I even want to know you.
1986—Slayer, “Raining Blood”
I came to Slayer late in life, but I’m really starting to be glad that I did. Spend any time trolling their Wikipedia page, and you’ll rapidly realize that these guys aren’t kidding, and I find their dedication rather admirable, really. I should point out that the version I used actually incorporates the last minute or so of the song “Postmortem”—the original CD pressing was mistracked, and since I first acquired the song in the halcyon days of P2P filesharing, I didn’t know any better, and now this is the version I’m used to.
1987—U2, “Bullet The Blue Sky”
My favorite track from The Joshua Tree. I quite like its ferocity, especially in comparison to the rest of the record.
1988—N.W.A., “Straight Outta Compton”
Gangsta rap starts here. Listen to it a couple of times, and you’ll start to realize that for all his posturing, Eazy-E is to N.W.A. as Flavor Flav is to Public Enemy (this is only more pronounced on “Fuck Tha Police”).
1989—Nine Inch Nails, “Head Like A Hole”
Kind of shocking to consider that it's this old. The other possibility would have been Prince's "Batdance" (or "200 Balloons"), but then I'm not entirely sure what I would have put in for 1984.
1990—Sinéad O'Connor, “The Emperor's New Clothes”
“Nothing Compares 2 U” might be the more obvious choice, but that would have violated the "no covers" rule. My word, I love this woman. I have to figure out how to work "The Last Day of Our Acquaintance" into a movie.
1991—Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
Well, duh. Changed the landscape of the music industry for the next twenty years.
1992—Ministry, “Jesus Built My Hotrod”
I….like to go fast. I like things that are loud. I love Ministry. This one just makes you want to MOVE (even if that movement is to slam into other people).
1993—Urge Overkill, “Positive Bleeding”
I doubt anyone outside the Chicago area remembers these guys for anything besides the Neil Diamond cover on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, and that’s kind of a travesty. I wanted something take-charge at the top of this disc, and I think I got it. (Chicken or egg?: 1993 was the year I first started paying attention to the electric rock music, making this a natural break point between the two discs. This also marked the point where I ran out of room on Disc 1. Which is the real reason? The World may never know. I sure as hell don’t.)
1994—Liz Phair, “Jealousy”
Another compromise pick of sorts. 1994 offered an embarrassment of riches, really, when it came to compiling this project. Could’ve put Nick Cave in here, or Pearl Jam, or Hole, or Portishead, or… As for "Jealousy", it’s hooky as hell, and I wonder why it’s never shown up in a romantic comedy. I also can turn to this why I want to be sad for the possibilities of lost talent (yes, Ms. Phair, I am COMPLETELY speaking of your last two records).
1995—Pearl Jam (feat. Neil Young), “I Got ID”
A scrap, of sorts, taken from the sessions when Pearl Jam was recording Mirrorball with Young. I like the riff a lot, and this was about the last place I could fit a Pearl Jam song in here, which is something I really wanted to do.
1996—Screaming Trees, “Sworn & Broken”
Screaming Trees never quite made it as big as they should have, and that’s a damn shame. The electric organ bridge in the middle of this may be my favorite 30 seconds of recorded music ever. EVER!
1997—Spiritualized, “Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space”
Endlessly gorgeous. Current odds-on favorite to be the first dance at the wedding I'll never have. I could listen to this ten times in a row (and have).
1998—Pulp, “The Fear”
The linchpin of this whole project and the song that started this whole idea in the first place. The entire record it's taken from, This is Hardcore, is about aging and the realization that one is no longer young. I wonder how that fits in with the genesis of this project, hmm? Even more than Blur, Pulp were my favorite band of the early/mid-90s Britpop era because they were so goddamn smart.
1999—Fountains of Wayne, “Troubled Times”
As a matter of fact, there is someone specific I think of in relation to this song. No, I’m not going to tell you, and you’re unlikely to guess.
2000—PJ Harvey, “The Whores Hustle and The Hustlers Whore”
Of course I couldn’t let an opportunity like this go by without including some PJH; that said, I realized later that as much as I like this song, the one I should have used was “This Is Love”. Eh. Maybe when I’m 40.
2001—Jay-Z, “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love)”
Another one I came to sort of late. As notable as it is for being, y’know, awesome, it is perhaps more notable for being Kanye West’s coming-out party. Those horns, dude…
2002—Sleater-Kinney, “Light Rail Coyote”
Had to include Sleater-Kinney, of course, and this was the best slot. I’ve never been to Oregon, don’t really know anyone there, but in those times when I think about packing it all in and leaving, this song is what makes me think Portland might be stop #1.
2003—Marilyn Manson, “Use Your Fist and Not Your Mouth”
Mr. Manson isn’t for everybody, certainly, but he sure as hell is for me, and to exclude him from here would have been…disingenuous. From what will probably end up being his last good record, this one has become something of a personal philosophy.
2004—Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “There She Goes, My Beautiful World”
I could write from now until doomsday and never run out of words of praise for Nick Cave. I really don’t think anyone comes as close to expressing my worldview—or perhaps what I wish my worldview was. This one is also associated with someone specific, and I’m not telling that name, either.
2005—New Pornographers “The Jessica Numbers”
I can’t explain it—outside of this song, the New Pornographers leave me a little cold. However, this is another one I could listen to for a week.
2006—Nellie McKay , “Columbia Is Bleeding”
Everyone needs a little Nellie in their life. This is—musically—probably my favorite song of hers, and really I can’t think of any song of hers which more fully encapsulates just what she is. I think of this as a slightly different protest song than is intended—it’s originally about animal testing at Columbia University in New York, but I continue to think of it in terms of “Columbia” as the New World/United States (look it up).
2007—Kanye West, “Stronger”
This is what 2007 sounded like, and what it always will sound like.
So that's that. Any thoughts? Questions?
If you were pulling together one of these for yourself, what would it look like?