Sunday, 2 February 2014

A list of my favourite pop music tracks from each iTune category - I don't waste my Sundays!

Four things convinced me to fritter away Sunday afternoon on the singularly pointless task of choosing my favourite (not necessarily the best) song in each of my self-created iTunes categories: (a) the Telegraph is running a two-part "500 Must-Have Music Tracks" this weekend, which got me pondering, (2) Whispering Bob Harris was on Desert Island Discs this morning, and I found myself singing along to most of his picks, (3) I spent most of last week writing articles for an actual print magazine, which, given the slothfulness of my normal existence, was surprisingly like hard work, and (4) I needed a mindless reward for having recently completed a week-long wheat exclusion diet, and having subsequently started a lactose-exclusion one (don't ask).

Here are the results of my wasted hours. Many of the categories won't mean much to you - I'm not quite sure how I came up with some of them in the first place, but I've got used the classification system over the years. I've deliberately only repeated one artist (Elvis, inevitably). To ensure that I wouldn't still be sitting here doing this in a week's time, I went with my instant gut-instinct choice each time. (Wherever you see the word "modern", it means "less than 25 years old"!)

Greatest Song:        
“Mystery Train”, Elvis Presley (it just is, okay?)

Adult-Oriented Rock:
“Sultans of Swing”, Dire Straits

Beach Boys:  
“Heroes and Villains” (with groovy animation, here: far out, man!)

"I Saw Her Standing There” (I was expecting a John Lennon track)
“Foggy Mountain Breakdown”, Flatt & Scruggs (see them perform it at the Grand Ole Opry here)

“Midnight Special”, Leadbelly (power, dignity, mysteryhere)

Boogie Woogie:        
“Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”, Andrews Sisters (see them perform it the film Buck Privates, here)

“You Ain’t Nothin” But Fine”, Rockin’ Sydney (here)

“The Morning Dew”, the Chieftains (here)

“I Heard That Lonesome Whistle”, Hank Williams (most miserable song ever)

Country Americana: 
“Weightless Again”, Handsome Family (weirdest song on the list - here)

Country Cosmic:      
“Luxury Liner”, Emmylou Harris (Albert lee on top form - here)

Country Hot:  
“My Baby Thinks He’s a Train”, Rosanne Cash (tremendous Albert lee performance - here)

Country Modern: 
“Past the Point of Rescue”, Hal Ketchum (here)

Country New Trad: 
“Long White Cadillac”, Dwight Yoakam (about Hank Williams's death - here)

Country Outlaws: 
“Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way”, Waylon Jennings (another song about Hank)

Country Rock:      
“Boxcars”, Joe Ely (the original recording isn't available on YouTube, but there's a pretty good live one here)

Country Trad:
“Long Black Veil”, Lefty Frizzell

“Yeke Yeke (Hardloor Remix)”, Mory Kante (here - let you into a secret: that's me dancing on the video)

“I Feel Love”, Donna Summer

“Runaround Sue”, Dion (first recording without The Belmonts)

“Highway 61 Revisited” (for the energy and the lyrics)

Easy Listening:      
“Walk On By”, Dionne Warwick - this category is pwned (sic) by Burt Bacharach

“Blue Monday”, New Order

“Baby Let's Play House” (the true birth of rock)

“Mack the Knife”, Bobby Darin

“Man with the Golden Arm”, Elmer Bernstein

“Green River”, Creedence Clearwater Revival

Folk Rock:        
“Matty Groves”, Fairport Convention (Sandy Denny's beautiful voice and Richard Thompson brilliant guitar-playing, here)

Folk Traditional:
“Silver Dagger”, Joan Baez (the first track on side one of her debut 1960 album - here)

“Superstition”, Stevie Wonder

“Nobody But Me”, The Human Beinz (here)

“Our Father”, Five Blind Boys of Mississippi (Lord, this is magnificent - here)

Hillbilly Boogie:      
“Pan American Boogie”, Delmore Brothers

Hip Hop/Rap:
“Adventures of Grand Master Flash on the Wheels of Steel”, Grandmaster Flash

“Spirit in the Sky”, Norman Greenbaum

“Elmira Street Boogie”, Danny Gatton (here)

Instro – Country:  
“Windy & Warm”, Doc Watson (here)

Instro – Early ‘60s: 
“FBI”, The Shadows

Instro – Surf:  
“Pipeline”, Chantays

Instro – Rock ‘n’ Roll: 
“Peter Gunn Theme”, Duane Eddy

Instro – Soul:      
“Green Onions”, Booker T & the MGs

“Cantaloupe Island”, Herbie Hancock (the acme of cool - here)

Jerry Lee Lewis:      
“Great Balls of Fire”

“Guaglione”, Perez Prado (most insanely cheerful record ever released)

“Queen of Hearts”, Dave Edmunds

“Bohemian Like You”, Dandy Warhols (I won't link to the official video because it features todgers)

New Orleans:  
"Be My Guest", Fats Domino

Paul Simon:
“The Boxer”  

“See Emily Play”, Pink Floyd (here)

"The Witch's Promise", Jethro Tull (I know, I know...)

“Abracadabra”, Steve Miller Band (yes, normally R&B or AOR, but this is pure pop - insanely catchy and genuinely witty guitar part, here)

“Surrender to the Rhythm”, Brinsley Schwarz (they should have been huge)

Punk/New Wave: 
"Dog Eat Dog", Adam and the Ants

“Trench Town Rock”, Bob Marley (beatilicious)

Rhythm ‘n’ Blues: 
“Don't Start Me Talkin'", Sonny Boy Williamson (well hard - here)

“Sharp Dressed Man”, ZZ Top (yes, I know just how uncool this is)

Rock ‘n’ Roll:  
“Run Rudoph Run”, Chuck Berry

“Red Hot”, Billy Lee Riley

Rockabilly Bluesy:  
“Ain’t Got a Thing”, Sonny Burgess (rock-hard stomper - here)

Rockabilly Country: 
“Honky Tonk Man”, Johnny Horton

Rockabilly Revival: 
“Evil Hearted Ada”, Flamin’ Groovies (geneuinely funny - here)

Rockabilly Pop:      
“Hello Mary Lou:, Ricky Nelson

Rockabilly Rock: 
“Honey Hush”, Johnny Burnette & the Rock ‘n’ Roll Trio

Rockabilly Sun:      
“Put Your Cat Clothes On”, Carl Perkins (boozed-up farm boys cut loose - here)

Rolling Stones:      
“Street Fighting Man” (for the compressed acoustic guitars recorded on a tacky little cassette player)

Seventies Pop Giants: 
“Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)”, Abba (you can keep "Dancing Queen" - this is truly magnificent)

Seventies Rock:      
"Don't Fear the Reaper", Blue Oyster Cult

Seventies Singles: 
“Whiskey in the Jar”, Thin Lizzy (used to be then most-requested transcription in guitar magazines - listen and marvel here)

“Fire and Rain”, James Taylor (for sensitive bedwetters like me)

Sixties Bands – UK:
“Gimme Some Lovin’”, Spencer Davis Group (HUGE sound - here)

Sixties Bands – US: 
“Do You Believe in Magic”, Lovin’ Spoonful (like listening to sunshine - here)

Sixties – Early:      
“Twistin’ the Night Away”, Same Cooke (Charlie Watts's favourite single)

Soul – Motown/Urban: 
“Bye Bye Baby”, Mary Wells (bit of a cheat - this is as raw as Motown got: here)

Soul – Stax/Rural: 
“Knock on Wood”, Eddie Floyd

Soul – Deep:
“I Forgot to be Your Lover”, William Bell (here)

Southern Cool:      
“Thirteen Days”, J.J. Cale

“River Deep Mountain High”, Ike & Tina Turner (I invented the category just to get this on the list - see the original promo video here)

Story Songs:
“Big Bad John”, Jimmy Dean

Swamp Rock:
“Willie and Laura Mae Jones”, Tony Joe White (here)

“The Model”, Kraftwerk (I thought they were ridiculous in the '70s - now they sound great - here)

“42nd Street”, Ruby Keeler (yes, she had all the grace of a hippo, and an annoying voice, but it all somehow worked - here)

White Boy Blues: 
"Crossroads", Cream

White Boy Soul:      
“The Letter”, The Box Tops (shortest track on the list - 1'53" of perfection: lead singer Alex Chilton was 16 when this was recorded - here)


  1. I will not...cannot argue with any of is your list. It is your wacky categories but, I must be sure that you are aware of this

    before we close the case on New Orleans.

    Lots of goodies there...Dwight Yoakam (Fast As You is my favorite) and Waylon Jennings of course.

    1. The Guitar Slim track is great - but I've been listening to "Be My Guest" for 53 years now (my brother had the single, with the lovely "I've Been Around" on the other side) and it always injects me with energy and generally makes life seem better. Also, as far as I can tell (hear?), it's the first genuine Ska record - Ska started in Jamaica in 1960, the year after the release of "Be My Guest". That has to count for somehting!

      "Fast As Me" is good, but my next three Yoakam favourites are "I Said (Paradise Regained)", "Honky Tonk Man" and "I Sang Dixie" (which always makes me mist up). Saw him years ago at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, and he and his guitarist, the great Pete Anderson, were great (the crowd was noisy, and he remarked "I see we got the trailer trash in tonight"). I dragged my wife along, who I think was expecting him to be Japanese-American, having misread his name as Dwight Yokohama - anyway, she enjoyed him too.)

      "Honky Tonk Heroes" is another great Waylon favourite of mine, but "Are You Sure" is the only track that gets the full five stars.

  2. Judging by your dancing to Yeke Yeke, the wheat and lactose exclusion diet is worth persevering with. The list is a major feat of organisation too. Do you arrange your sock drawer by days of the week?

    It wouldn't be a list discussion without the odd quibble. You might consider putting Hal Ketchum in a new category: Country Modern (Schmaltz). That frees up Country Modern for "Boys Round Here" by Blake Shelton. Any song whose chorus ends with the exhortation "chew bacca, chew bacca, chew bacca, spit" deserves inclusion on a list of some sort.

    Another great post.

    1. I must warn you that Sharman is a fan of "Past the Point of Rescue", so prepare to suffer the consequences of your dreadful lapse in taste. Schmaltz? How dare you!

      Blake Shelton doesn't really do it for me - too much of a deliberate "Good Ol' Boy" approach, and there's something about the tempo I find irritating. Always had a soft spot for Bruce Hornsby's "The Valley Road", but he seems to annoy the cognoscenti. Tempted by Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Down at the Twist & Shout" and Alan Jackson's "Buy Me A Mercury", just for the wonderful electric guitar breaks, but his big hat annoys me. No, I'll stick with with Hal, thanks all the same.

    2. And that's a no the charge of sock drawer anality - but I do have to have all the washing-up done after a meal before I can concentrate on anything else. The only other thing that really makes me panic is not having my iTunes tracks consigned to folders - it's like having little orphaned sheep wandering around lost on the moors. Or something. (I think I may need help.)

  3. I wish I could post a pic of my music'd need corn whiskey after that.

    Neither of you have heard Blake Shelton until you've hear The Boy sing Boys Round Here...or as he knows it...Boyz roun HAAAAAAAAAAARRRRR