Total Eclipse

In honor of our recent eclipse:

“The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)” — Walker Brothers
“Sun It Rises” — Fleet Foxes
“Don’t Take My Sunshine Away” — Sparklehorse
“Ain’t No Sunshine” — Bill Withers
“I Don’t Believe In The Sun” — The Magnetic Fields
“Light Goes Out” — Ages And Ages
“Hide In The Light” — The Sunshine Fix
“Peel Back The Moon, Beware!” — Elf Power
“Ride Into The Sun” — The Velvet Underground
“Things Behind The Sun” — Nick Drake
“Darkest Day” — John White
“Hiding Behind The Moon” — Jeff Hanson
“Lights Out” — Angel Olsen
“There Was Sun” — Devendra Banhart
“Dark Center Of The Universe” — Modest Mouse
“Eclipsed” — The Shimmies
“You Want It Darker” — Leonard Cohen
“Here Comes The Sun” — The Beatles



I have heavy opinions about the role of bass guitar in rock and roll. Deep, resonant, booming opinions, with lots of low end.

Anyway . . .

The bass player is the most underrated musician in any band that isn’t the Beatles or the Police. Guitarists and singers get most of the glory, obviously, and drummers have the reputation as hard-partying savages, though in my experience drummers tend to be the most reliable, mature, and domesticated individuals. Keyboard players are inconsequential.

But bass players determine whether a band sounds good or not. Bass is sort of a bottleneck that all the other elements of a song have to get through. A crappy bass player can muddy the best chord progressions and render the best lyrics indecipherable. Often times the best option for a bass player is to keep it minimal and play under the rest of the instruments, so bass players must exercise restraint.

Bass occupies more sonic real estate than any other instrument. That is, the range of frequencies coming from the bass amp take up the bottom third of the audible spectrum that human ears can hear. And because low-frequency sound waves are physically larger than high-pitched sound waves, they interact with their environment in odd ways. For instance, many clubs have hollow stages, just some sheets of plywood nailed over an empty enclosure, and certain notes on the bass will actually resonate with the entire stage, causing a booming sound throughout the club. So as a bass player, you have to concern yourself with tone and the settings on your amp in a way that you don’t if you’re a keyboard player, in which case you pretty much just turn the amp up or down. Even if you’re ignorant of acoustics, just know that a good chunk of the overall sound you are hearing from a live rock band is the bass.

Today I’m playing songs that have some of the most iconic bass lines of all time. I’d like to thank my friend Milhows, who listened to the show and pointed out that the ascending line on “My Girl” is actually played on guitar, not bass. I hereby publicly acknowledge my failure. Everything else is legit. Quick note that the punchy, repetitive bass stylings of Kim Deal in the Pixies were copied by Nirvana, so I put those back to back.

“My Girl” — The Temptations
“Stand By Me” — Ben E. King
“You Can’t Hurry Love” — The Supremes
“Taxman” — The Beatles
“Come Together” — The Beatles
“Sunshine Of Your Love” — Cream
“My Generation” — The Who
“Under Pressure” — David Bowie (with Queen)
“Another One Bites The Dust” — Queen
“Walk On The Wild Side” — Lou Reed
“What’s Going On” — Marvin Gaye
“The Lemon Song” — Led Zeppelin
“Town Called Malice” — The Jam
“Billie Jean” — Michael Jackson
“Monkey Gone To Heaven” — The Pixies
“Gouge Away” — The Pixies
“Lithium” — Nirvana
“Waiting Room” — Fugazi
“The National Anthem” — Radiohead
“Seven Nation Army” — The White Stripes
“Hysteria” — Muse*
“I Want You Back” — The Jackson 5
“American Life” — Primus
“The Guns Of Brixton” — The Clash

*by request

Garage Vs. Glam

Garage rock and glam rock are two sides of the same coin. Both genres rose to prominence in the early ’70s, both were guitar-centric rock music divided more by aesthetics than content. If you wore ripped jeans and leather jackets and made lo-fi records with buzzsaw guitars, you were garage rock. If you wore platform shoes, eyeliner, and glitter, and your records were overproduced with polished guitar sounds and perhaps layers of orchestral ambience, then you were glam rock. Some artists, like Iggy Pop, comfortably inhabited both ecosystems. Today we are A/Bing the two.

“Have Love Will Travel” — The Sonics
“Queen Bitch” — David Bowie
“You’re Gonna Miss Me” — 13th Floor Elevators
“I’m Eighteen” — Alice Cooper
“96 Tears” — ? And The Mysterians
“Psychotic Reactions” — Count Five
“Virginia Plain” — Roxy Music
“Kick Out The Jams” — MC5
“Vicious” — Lou Reed
“Pushin’ Too Hard” — The Seeds
“Clap Your Hands And Stamp Your Feet” — Bonnie St. Claire
“Psycho” — The Sonics
“Life On Mars” — David Bowie
“Gloria” — Them
“Cum On Feel The Noize” — Slade
“I Wanna Be Your Dog” — The Stooges
“Search And Destroy” — Iggy & The Stooges
“Trash” — New York Dolls
“All The Young Dudes” — Mott The Hoople

Cold Call

It’s been hot. Here are some songs about being cold.

“Cold Brains” — Beck
“It’s Cold Outside” — The Choir
“Cold Town” — The Foghorns
“Cold, Cold Heart” — Hank Williams
“The Cold Part” — Modest Mouse
“Cold Son” — Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
“Cold, Cold Ground” — Tom Waits
“Coldest Night Of The Year” — Vashti Bunyan
“In The Cold, Cold, Night”” — The White Stripes
“Cold Light” — Yeah Yeah Yeahs
“Freezing Point” — The Field Mice

Road Trip

My wife and I are heading out on the road this Saturday. We’re going to see Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Arches National Parks. In honor of the great American road trip, I’m playing songs about driving, mountains, vacations, and getting out of the city.

“Holiday Road” — Lindsey Buckingham
“This Land Is Your Land” — Woody Guthrie
“Roam” — The B-52s*
“Get Out The Map” — The Indigo Girls*
“Two Of Us” — The Beatles
“Going Up The Country” — Canned Heat
“Drive Honda Drive” — MiniVan
“Let’s Take A Trip” — Godfrey
“Legal Man” — Belle And Sebastian
“Roadrunner” — The Modern Lovers
“Mountains” — Sparklehorse
“Blue Ridge Mountains” — Fleet Foxes
“Highways” — Jim Sullivan
“Car Wheels On A Gravel Road” — Lucinda Williams
“Into The Great Wide Open” — Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
“Ramblin’ Man” — The Allman Brothers Band*
“Road Movie To Berlin” — They Might Be Giants*
“Westport” — Joshua Morrison*
“Radar Love” — Golden Earring*

*by request

The Most Overused Chord Progression Of All Time

A few years ago, a YouTube video of the comedy band Axis of Awesome went viral. The band loops four chords and proceeds to sing dozens of top 40 hits over the top of the same progression. The gist is that this particular chord progression has been recycled incessantly, and that many hit songs are harmonically identical. If you’re a theory nerd, the progression is I V vi IV.

I felt like I’d been scooped when this video started appearing on friends’ Facebook pages. For years I’d been thinking I might attempt something like this at a local open mic. From the time I started learning songs by ear, I noticed this chord progression used time and again. Most bands are fully aware of this chord progression, and most of the bands that I’ve been in had an unwritten rule that this progression is to be avoided like the plague. Today’s show is a rundown of songs that use this progression in one form or another.

“With Or Without You” — U2 (entire song)
“Sleep The Clock Around” — Belle And Sebastian (entire song)
“Tomorrow” — James (entire song)
“When I Come Around” — Green Day (entire song except chorus)
“Fall At Your Feet” — Crowded House (chorus)
“No One Else” — Weezer (chorus)
“No One” — Alicia Keys (entire song)
“Glycerine” — Bush (entire song except brief break following each chorus)
“I’m Goin’ Down” — Bruce Springsteen (entire song)
“All Too Well” — Taylor Swift (entire song)
“Zombie” — The Cranberries (closely related iv IV I V, same as “Building A Mystery” by Sarah McLaughlin and “One of Us” by Joan Osborne)
“Somewhere Over The Rainbow” — Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole (the entire song before he transitions to “What A Wonderful World”)
“What’s My Age Again” — Blink-182 (pretty much the entire song, except some breaks)
“Love” — Lana Del Rey (whole song except for pre-chorus and bridge)
“Cryn’ ” — Aerosmith (chorus, but the verse is a closely related I V vi iii)
“Take Me Home, Country Roads” — John Denver (chorus)
“Take Me On” — A-ha (chorus)
“Someone Like You” — Adele (chorus)
“Firework” — Katy Perry (chorus)
“Don’t Stop Believing” — Journey (the verses)
“Tuesday’s Gone” — Lynyrd Skynyrd (the chorus for the most part)
“Under The Bridge” — Red Hot Chili Peppers (verses)
“Torn” – Natalie Imbruglia (chorus)

Caesura Section

Caesura: In music, a caesura is a pause, break, or moment of silence. In classical music it’s notated by a rest or fermata. In rock music, you just stop.

It’s hard to pull off as a live rock band. Usually when there’s a “break,” one of the instruments keeps going. Typically the drummer clicks the high hat or something to keep time for the entire group. If you truly have four beats of silence, all musicians need to be on the same page, otherwise someone will come in early or late and the effect is ruined. It’s risky. Not for amateurs.

Today I’m playing songs that have a break in them. I owe the idea for today’s playlist to Jennifer Egan’s novel A Visit From The Goon Squad. One of the characters in that book becomes obsessed with songs that have silence in them and creates charts and graphs detailing different pop songs and the length of their pauses.

The Longest-Silence Award goes to the Frames’ “Mighty Sword,” which has a minute and 16 seconds of silence in the middle.

“Time Of The Season” — The Zombies
“Good Times Bad Times” — Led Zeppelin
“I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)” — The Electric Prunes
“Roxanne” — The Police
“I Got Skills” — Mozes And The Firstborn
“Jackie” — The New Pornagraphers
“False Advertising” — Bright Eyes
“Mighty Sword” — The Frames
“Long Train Runnin’ ” — The Doobie Brothers
“Bernadette” — Four Tops
“Supervixen” — Garbage
“Faith” — George Michael
“Young Americans” — David Bowie
“Please Play This Song On The Radio” — NOFX
“Rearrange Beds” — An Horse
“Hit Liquor” — Shudder To Think*

*by request