This time all the tracks speak to the story or the emotional states of all involved, and the songs are far less ‘87-centric. Once again, all tracks are added to the Overarching Gunning For Hits Playlist after the previous issue’s.
So please start this issue’s playlist with:
That Petrol Emotion / Big Decision
TPE were the Undertones with a new singer and a spikier, post-punk, more political direction. “You’d rather cross the ocean than make a big decision” is such a great line. While Martin does cross an ocean to get resolution, he wouldn’t have to if Cook wasn’t an obstacle. I love the fade where Steve quotes Brother D’s “How We Gonna Make The Black Nation Rise,” arguably the first overtly political hip-hop track.
The Neighborhoods / No Place Like Home
Amazing Boston punk pop band who started out kinda like early Jam / Gen X, led by the charming and handsome David Minehan. This is the b-side of their first single, which spoke volumes to me about pent-up, restless, suburban youth. It’s Billy’s mindset in a nutshell, although, no dad. NOTE: Bowie loved them and had them open for him at Foxboro Stadium (where the Patriots played) in 1987.
Veruca Salt / With David Bowie
It’s that thing where music is always there for you but also when you’re actually hanging with the dude who made that music for you.
AC/DC / Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Melch approved. While maybe not dirt cheap, Martin’s hiring. I love Brian Johnson, but Bon was the man.
Dramarama / Ain’t It The Truth
One of THE unsung bands of the 80s / 90s alternative rock scene, they were glammy, rocky, poppy. They only ever got serious attention in France, New Jersey and LA. They had a MASSIVE Los Angeles-only hit in “Anything Anything” which was, and probably still is, the most-requested song on KROQ. It IS the truth, but Martin’s not hearing it.
P!nk / Trouble
I’m the guy that loves her difficult third album, made with help of Tim from Rancid. It really shows on this track, which has sort of been lost in her history but it conveys all the desperation of mounting doom with the swagger that makes you believe you just might sidestep it like a matador.
Silver Ginger 5 / Girls Are Better Than Boys
Well, they are. Smarter, tougher, faster; I’m convinced women will save this planet despite us men. From the brilliant mind of songwriting genius Ginger Wildheart, one of earth’s last great rockers.
Elvis Costello / Radio Radio
Martin visits L.A. No doubt there were radio stations with integrity in 1987, but they were few and far between. Now most stations are owned by a handful of companies, so I’d guess that number’s gone down. This Elvis classic, famously played unscheduled on Saturday Night Live, makes his feelings quite clear.
Huey Lewis & The News / Hip To Be Square
Are we / am I cool or not? was a top concern in the 80s when things were moving pretty fast, Ferris Bueller. Huey’s first band, Clover, famously back Costello on his spiky debut on My Aim Is True. H&TN were ubiquitous in the 80s, and while their everyguy yuppie light rock wore out its welcome pretty fast, this lyric showed Huey had a sense of humor about his place in the world. Also in his defense, Huey played harmonica on Thin Lizzy’s classic Alive & Dangerous, is super smart, a really nice guy (all the News are!), AND he let this get licensed for American Psycho (very cool move, all things considered).
Buzzcocks / Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve?)
Talking about Martin here and his obsession with Slade, but there are other characters about to have relationship issues. Rock on, Pete Shelley!
Beyonce / Run The World (Girls)
Maybe I’m blanking but it feels like the latter half of the 80s had a shortage of female empowerment in music. Yes, Madonna, but on re-evaluation, also, no, Madonna. As much as I love Joan Jett, it’s not her greatest period. Third-wave feminism and the Riot Grrrl movement corrected that course, but I went for a more recent and clear statement.
Clash / Guns On The Roof
The lyrics are so perfect for the attempt on Slade’s life (or is it?) and the various locations mentioned have meaning to both Martin & Lucius. And Joe Strummer is a key figure in the origins of this book in general.
Graham Parker / Protection
It’s important to have a good bodyguard. Despite willingly appearing as something of a punchline in the “should’ve been better, but still oddly compelling” Paul Rudd / Leslie Mann co-starrer This Is 40, Graham Parker has been making great records since he rose out of the pub rock scene of the mid-70s. This is one, but also you should acquaint yourself with Squeezing Out Sparks ASAP if you’re not already familiar, particularly the version with all the songs played live. His cover of the J5’s ABC is brilliant too.
Eric B. & Rakim / Paid In Full
In addition to being a brilliant early hip-hop classic, lyrically this speaks to a lot of what’s going on when Martin and Lucius make their new arrangement.
Public Enemy / Bring The Noise
Couldn’t resist adding another PE favorite, addressing Billy & Slade cranking out what apparently would make Metal Machine Music sound like the Carpenters.
David Bowie / Breaking Glass
“You’re such a wonderful person but you got problems.”